As much as I try to focus strictly on soccer both in Orlando and beyond on rare occasions the human element creeps into my articles; such is the case with this piece. Saturday marks the fourteenth annual Miracle Miles fundraiser to support the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies right here in Orlando. I'm pleased to be taking part in the event this year with the players and staff of Orlando City Soccer Club and their team, "Running with Lions." While being able to team with Orlando City for this tremendous fundraiser is great, my real reason for doing this event is much more personal.
Just about two years ago our son Cameron was born at Winnie Palmer Hospital. For most parents in Central Florida, their time spent at the hospital is limited to a walk-through of the facilities and delivery day; that's the way it's suppose to be. However, our son decided to be different before we even had a chance to meet him so we got to know "Winnie" a lot more intimately than most families.
At our 16 week appointment during the pregnancy it was determined that Cameron had a blood capability issue that, as our doctor explained, wasn't suppose to happen and occurred in less than one tenth of one percent of pregnancies. As it was explained to us the blood type in our son was different from that in my wife and the medications that were given to combat this issue didn't work as planned. As the pregnancy continued my wife's blood and immune system attempted to combat our son's very presence in her body, a problem that could lead to heart issues, permanent brain damage, or even death.
We spent no less than three days a week at Winnie through the rest of our pregnancy. Our son endured two transfusions while still in my wife and was born prematurely at 36 weeks, at which time he was taken to the NICU because his antibody levels spiked for a third time and he needed serious help. He was placed in the highest level of NICU care offered at the facility where he and his roommate shared a dedicated doctor, nurse and technician.
I remember those countless times we would go into the NICU to visit with Cameron; having to scrub in like surgeons just to be able to even see him. There he would lay, completely at peace with his surroundings, nearly unaware of the tubes and wires connected to almost every part of his body. We would sit there and just stare at him and wonder what was next for us. There wasn't a visit that went by that I didn't stop and talk to some other parents who were visiting their little boy or girl in the NICU. Our son's roommate had been born at just 26 weeks and had been in the NICU for over three months when we arrived. I remember talking with them about their son's progress and even being there when he was taken off the incubator for the first time.
After 8 days in the NICU our son was able to come home and even though he needed a third and final transfusion a few weeks later his very existence is due to the incredible staff, resources, and facilities that are available through Winnie Palmer Hospital. Cameron was just one of the more than 28,000 NICU survival cases from that facility which is now in the process of a major expansion so they can add beds to care for more premature and high-risk babies. Miracle Miles is the primary fundraising event for this NICU facility.
While soccer is always in your heart, like it is in mine, please take a moment to think about the thousands of tiny babies who have gone through the NICU at Winnie and the thousands who likely will in the future. Who knows, maybe there are some future Orlando City soccer stars in the making?