From the ICU and back: These twin nurses were born premature in TX

Just imagine: after months, the day you’ve waited for has finally arrived. But instead of holding your new baby in your arms, you’re told there’s been a problem as she’s whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Your joy and hope is suddenly replaced with fear and despair.

When the unthinkable happens, families can take comfort in knowing Driscoll Children’s Hospital has the medical expertise and technology necessary to provide excellent care for even the tiniest humans.

It's a place where registered nurses Alexa and Brianna Rabagos bring their story — and their light. Dark moments are no match for the Rabagos twins, who experienced their own first three months of life in Driscoll’s NICU. And while they do not remember the early days of incubators and monitors measuring every flutter of their tiny heartbeats like butterfly wings, they were meant to fly."></iframe>

Today, their focus is on treating precious young lives — those of infants and children admitted to the ICUs at Driscoll.

“We can honestly say that Driscoll saved our lives,” said Alexa. “If it wasn’t for Driscoll, we wouldn’t be here now as nurses for babies that are in the same situations as we were when we were born.”

Caring for families in South Texas

While the Rabagos twins have no memories of their own fight for life, their parents certainly do. As the girls grew up, they learned more about what their parents faced as their first children were were born into fear and uncertainty 27 years ago.

“When they saw us getting CPR and intubated, they were sitting in the hallway in complete shock,” Alexa explained. “They were crying. They didn’t know what to do. It’s scary for any parent. I can just remember them telling us of how hard and difficult it was to see us struggle and almost not make it.”

As nurses in Driscoll’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), Alexa and Brianna bring this experience with them to work every day. They understand that as they treat a sick child, they are providing care to its entire family.

“What made us want to become nurses is the opportunities that it would give us to help families

and children who need support at the scariest moment of their lives — just like the people who helped our parents,” Alexa said. “It was registered nurses and health care providers that helped them feel hopeful. That’s the biggest thing that we wanted when we chose the profession of becoming registered nurses.”

These twin RNs are determined to provide the same quality of care they received. And they’ve made the choice to do it at Driscoll, where every provider’s goal is to give expert health care that anyone would want for their own family.

And the time is now for an emphasis on neonatal care. Across the country, the number of babies born prematurely is on the rise, according to the 2022 March of Dimes Report Card. In Texas, the most recent data show one in nine babies (or 11.4% of live births) were born preterm — before 37 weeks — in 2021.

For families whose children require the extra support of a NICU or PICU, they can be confident that close attention and outstanding treatment are the standard in all of Driscoll’s state-of-the-art facilities which serve South Texas — from Corpus Christi to the Rio Grande Valley to Victoria and Laredo. Here, children receive the best pediatric care possible close to home.

Integrated care under one roof

The Driscoll NICU is staffed 24/7 by neonatologists, pediatric subspecialists and neonatal nurse practitioners. Board-certified intensive care physicians are on site at all times for both the NICU and PICU. The support staff of nurses, respiratory therapists, dietitians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, therapists and more are all specially trained to care for children of all ages — from newborn babies to young adults.

When preemies admitted into Driscoll’s new Level III Neonatal Care Center experience more complex medical or surgical needs, they have seamless access to the Driscoll Children’s Hospital Level IV NICU, which offers the highest level of care available and is the only Level IV NICU in South Texas.

Newborns admitted to any Driscoll NICU have a dedicated team of specialists to meet their unique health care needs, ensuring they receive the best possible care. After all, the need for immediate access to specially trained medical staff and equipment is critical — giving vulnerable infants the strongest chance at a healthy outcome.

The opening of the Driscoll Neonatal Care Center — made possible, in part, by a $1 million contribution from the Driscoll Development Foundation and its supporters — is a step forward in providing a true system of integrated care for the entire family.

‘Beacon of hope’

Restoring hope through healing is one of the main goals for all who serve South Texas communities at Driscoll. For Chief Nursing Officer Julie Piña, it goes beyond care to even sharing success stories — just like that of the Rabagos twins.

“These young ladies were born and cared for in Corpus Christi. And now they’re working in an industry that is so critical to our future,” said Piña. “And, so, I think it gives hope to our future generations.”

Now, families who hear about the twins’ story can imagine a brighter future for their own children. For Alexa and Brianna, their hope is to give patients the start they need and deserve.

After all, when a new baby is born something else is, too — hope. At Driscoll Children’s Hospital, lives are nurtured along with the hope, that one day, these tiniest of humans will dream all the big dreams and grow to meet all the big milestones. From first steps to first school days to driving a car, graduating and walking down the aisle, dreams can only come true if good care happens at the very moment baby takes her first breath.

For families going through a desperate situation, not all is lost, said Brianna:

“We’re able to be that beacon of hope.”

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