“We could never have anticipated the joy Mack has brought us. Every individual we encountered at Tallahassee Memorial was right, he is truly a light within our lives.”
The Young family had tried for years to get pregnant so when Mandi Young went in for a check up after having stomach flu symptoms, she was shocked to find she was 12 weeks pregnant. “It was a miracle,” said Mandi. “I’ve been going to Dr. A.J. Brickler since I was in college, so when I went to see him, he sounded just as shocked as I felt.” Mandi and her husband Adam’s only hope was that this little miracle would remain healthy as he continued to grow.
Because of their pregnancy being identified as high-risk due to Mandi’s age, the Youngs were sent to visit Donald Willis, MD at TMH Physician Partners - Maternal Fetal Medicine for further testing.
What could have been devastating news turned into reassurance that their baby would live a happy life, “Dr. Willis explained that the Cell-Free Fetal DNA scan came back positive, meaning our baby was at high risk to have a chromosome disorder, such as Down Syndrome. Beyond the technicalities, Dr. Willis comforted us sharing how much our baby boy would add value to our family regardless of any disorder,” Mandi explained.
Throughout the remaining months of their pregnancy, the Youngs were only concerned with their baby’s health. “We knew we would love Mack through anything.”
This attitude continued through Mandi’s 40-week appointment, “I went in for a typical ultrasound and found out that my water broke. I didn’t even know it.” While panic and fear struck the Youngs, everyone around them remained calm.
All the classes taken at A Woman’s Place and books read led to this moment. “It was about 7:15 am when we found out Mack was under duress and needed to come out. Dr. Andrea Friall and Dr. A.J. Brickler came in to help me deliver.” But as Mandi and Adam took a breath of relief, Mack struggled to get the oxygen he needed. The Tallahassee Memorial Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) team immediately intervened.
“Mack spent 10 days in the NICU. They educated and ensured we learned every aspect of our son.” The Youngs would stay with Mack as much as they were allowed to, learning how to give him the best life possible from respiratory therapists, lactation consultants, nurses and genetic counseling from the TMH Physician Partners - Clinical Genetics Center.
As the Youngs settled into their new roles as Mack’s parents, Dr. Brickler instilled confidence in their new normal. “Our job as parents is to allow our children to reach their full potential while adjusting our expectations accordingly. Many times our expectations will be exceeded in unexpected ways. Love is unlimited. No matter how many people you add to your family there is an endless supply of love to go around. That is what will sustain you through the hard parts,” said Dr. Brickler.
From check-in and triage to labor and delivery, the Youngs were surrounded by organized joy. “That was a scary time for us,” Mandi remembers, “but we had an amazing nurse, Tina, who was our angel. Not only was she the best cheerleader, she took the time to learn about us and connect with us.”
Tina Bailey, RN did not limit Mack’s care to his time at the hospital, she explained, “Mack’s sweet face filled Mandi and Adam with so much love and determination to become the best parents. After discharge, I did not want them to feel alone in this new challenge. As a way of helping them on their journey, I connected them with a friend who has a child with Down Syndrome, someone who had a wealth of knowledge and firsthand experience. While they were leaving our care, I wanted Mandi and Adam to know there was a real person out there in the world who understood.”
As the region's only NICU, Mack was surrounded with expert care to become stronger and more resilient. NICU Nurse Manager Judith Danford, RN shared, “The NICU tries to provide a calm place for the baby to grow and develop, while still educating moms and dads on how to appropriately care for their child. We are a collaborative team that serves approximately 600 babies each year. Each one just as special and sweet as little Mack.”
Before they took Mack home, the Youngs, including Mack, stayed in a transition room at the Women's Pavilion. “This gave us the opportunity to care for him for one night with no monitors, with the comfort that the nurses we loved were right around the corner,” Mandi said.
A year later, Mack is thriving. He receives therapy a few times a week and only shows slight delays from a typical child. He is right on target cognitively and growing into a strong little boy. While Mandi and Adam feel lucky to watch Mack continue to grow, his smile brings them back to the early moments in his life.
“During our time in the Family Care Unit, we had several nurses come in to help us learn about our baby, how to breastfeed/pump and more. But all the specifics didn’t matter as much as the love they had for our family. Dr. Brickler said it best when he told us that it didn’t matter that Mack had Down Syndrome. All that truly matters in the world is to love and to be loved. Mack was sent to this earth to make people happy and we are forever grateful to the doctors, nurses and staff at Tallahassee Memorial for ensuring that Mack’s light continues to shine.”