A baby who was in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for over 10 months got to head home for the first time – thanks in large part to his nurse-turned-godmother.
Ricki Ann Gandy delivered her son, Oliver, when she was just 25 weeks pregnant at DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He weighed 1 pound, 8 ounces at birth and was 12 and a half inches long.
"The doctor, Rees Oliver, told us from day one that he was a very sick little boy and it was going to take a long time to get his lungs where they needed to be," Gandy said.
Oliver was brought directly to the NICU while Gandy recovered. When Oliver’s father, Jeremy Sullivan, would go to visit, he noticed a certain nurse was always by his son’s side. That nurse was Savannah Galloway.
Galloway has been a NICU nurse for five years. She told “GMA” that she loves all of her NICU babies but for some reason she was drawn to Oliver in particular.
“There was just something about Oliver, I don’t know what it was exactly,” Galloway said. “His story is very unique.”
When she was able to get up and walk to the NICU, Gandy was finally able to meet the nurse who had been taking care of her son. She says the two bonded right away and as time went on their relationship only grew closer.
“Every night that she worked she would be in his room whether she was his nurse or not,” Gandy said. “We started calling her Oliver’s NICU mom.”
After five months at DCH Regional in Tuscaloosa, Oliver was transferred to UAB Hospital in Birmingham. Gandy said the transfer and leaving the staff who had cared for Oliver since birth was emotional but Galloway stayed in touch with them during the process.
“She gave me her number and told me if you ever need anything to let me know,” Gandy said.
Once he was transferred to UAB, Oliver experienced pulmonary hypertension crisis and had to be placed on a ventilator.
"It was really, really touch and go," Gandy said.
He stayed on the ventilator for months and at seven months old, he was able to come off and begin physical, speech and occupational therapy with the nurses. Gandy says the nurses who took care of Oliver at UAB also became like family to them.
"He learned that if he pulled the prongs out of his nose that his machine would beep and the nurses would come in," Gandy said. "When they came in he would always smile. He was a big flirt."
Gandy and Galloway discovered they lived right down the street from each other and after Oliver was transferred, Galloway would often drive over to check in on Gandy and Sullivan. Gandy said she’d sometimes get a text to look outside and when she did, Galloway and her husband, Jake Galloway, would have dropped off things to help Oliver and their family. The Galloways would even go visit Oliver at his new hospital.
Gandy and Sullivan decided that they wanted Galloway and her husband to be Oliver’s godparents.
“They filled those shoes before we ever made it official,” Gandy said. “We said if we had to choose anyone to be his godparents we would definitely want it to be them. We have just fallen in love with their family.”
Galloways says being asked to be Oliver’s godmother after all the months taking care of him in the NICU was “extremely emotional.”
“Of course we said yes,” Galloway said. “It’s such an honor. That’s a big deal. They’re like family to us now.”
After 10 months in the NICU at three different hospitals and overcoming so much in his long medical journey, Gandy and Sullivan were finally able to bring Oliver home on April 8. After months of caring for him, the nurses at UAB all lined up outside to send Oliver off.
Gandy says watching her son get to experience life outside of the hospital walls -- things like meeting his great grandparents and seeing nature for the first time -- has been "amazing."
“As a mom it’s hard to watch your child go through that,” Gandy said. “If it weren’t for God this little boy wouldn’t be here.”
The Galloways are now able to visit their godson Oliver at home, which they do about every other day. Gandy said that Oliver laughed for the first time while his godparents were giving him a bath just the other evening.
“We’ll forever and always be a part of his life,” Galloway said. “We’re blessed that they shared their little miracle with us. Our lives have been changed for the better by that sweet baby and his parents.”