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Our Hanukkah story: A miracle during life’s unexpected circumstances

Photo credit to: Courtesy of Tina Imaani

Each year, Racquel Esses and her husband, Isaac, look forward to celebrating Hanukkah. But, this year’s celebration will be especially meaningful to them. It was one year ago -- Dec. 12, 2019, the third night of Hanukkah -- that the couple celebrated a miracle of their own when their baby girl was discharged after spending nearly six months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women.

“The day our daughter left the NICU was an incredibly special moment for us,” Racquel said. “After all our family had endured, it was our faith and being blessed with an amazing team of doctors, nurses and staff at Texas Children’s, that helped us overcome the unforeseen hurdles in our miracle journey.”

The Esses’ story began on July 7, 2019, when their daughter, Simone, underwent fetal surgery at 24 weeks and five days gestation at Texas Children’s Fetal Center®. The surgery went well, but it meant that Racquel would have to stay in Houston for the next six months under close medical observation.

“It was difficult being away from home, but my family travelled back and forth to stay with me while my OB/GYN, Dr. Michael Belfort, and the fetal care team continued to monitor me and my baby,” Racquel said. “However, a few days after the fetal surgery, things took an unexpected turn. That same week, my water broke, and I thought, “No, this can’t be happening. I am 25 weeks pregnant. I’m not having my baby today!”

On July 15, 2019, Racquel underwent an emergency C-section. Simone was born at 25 weeks and weighed 680 grams. Several days after she was born, doctors performed a head ultrasound to re-examine her brain bleed, and miraculously, her condition healed on its own – her brain reabsorbed the blood which her family describes as another miracle in their daughter’s NICU journey. During her 6-month stay in the NICU, her nurses, who referred to Simone as their “warrior princess,” took care of her until she was healthy and strong enough to go home.

“My daughter is a walking, breathing miracle,” Racquel said. “If I didn’t come to Texas Children’s, I know without a doubt my precious daughter, Simone, and I would not have made it. I am so grateful to Dr. Belfort and my care team, who helped get me through some very scary moments during and after my pregnancy, and for the amazing NICU nurses -- Sarah, Kim, April and so many more -- who took great care of my baby. They are still family to us and we continue to keep in touch with them and share Simone’s milestones.”

Considering the obstacles faced in the first six months of her life, Simone is a thriving 1-year-old who loves to eat just about anything. She now weighs a whopping 19 pounds! Besides being a “hunka chunk,” as her mom describes her, Simone loves to talk, give kisses, clap her hands and she enjoys singing. She is also crawling and pulling herself up to stand. Her parents and doctors are amazed by her miraculous progress for a baby who was born at 25 weeks!

“So many prayers went into this baby,” Racquel said. “Our experiences definitely strengthened our faith and resolve. We had to keep reminding ourselves that God was in control, and that everything would work out in the end. Despite our struggles and sacrifices, we have so much to be grateful for. As we begin the Hanukkah season, our daughter is a constant reminder of the miracle we have been blessed with.

Click here to learn more about Texas Children’s Fetal Center and click here for more information about our Level IV NICU at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women.

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Racquel Esses