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Preemie Baby 'Graduates' From Hospital After Spending 80 Days In NICU

Caitlyn Clancey 22 May 2020

A Texas baby who was born prematurely at just 26 weeks and spent 80 days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) has finally been discharged, and to celebrate the momentous occasion, the hospital threw her a very special "graduation" ceremony.

As Good Morning America reported, the baby, Gloria Patten, was formally discharged from the McAllen Medical Center on May 19 — two weeks before her actual due date.

Gloria's mom, Alana Patten, went into labor on February 29 when, just 26 weeks into her pregnancy, she underwent an emergency C-section.

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The fragile newborn weighed only 2 pounds and was taken away from her mother to be put on a ventilator before Alana even had a chance to hold her. In fact, that opportunity wouldn't come for another two weeks.

"She was so tiny and I just remember how painstaking of a process it would be just so I could hold her," Alana recalled to GMA. "We’d have to get the whole team to come over to transfer her from the incubator to my arms."

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For the next 12 weeks, little Gloria remained in the hospital's NICU, and she was there when the coronavirus outbreak hit the U.S. in March.

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In an effort to protect patients and prevent the spread of the deadly disease, the hospital put a restriction on visitors, meaning Alana and her husband, Jon, could only visit their precious newborn baby girl one at a time, and only during certain hours of the day.

"It was all to keep the NICU safe and we understood that, but as brand new parents, it felt like we were a world away from her," Alana explained.

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After weeks spent abiding to pandemic-related guidelines and budgeting their gas money to make the trip to the hospital every day, it was finally time for Gloria to come home with her parents.

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Alana said she wanted to make that moment as special as possible, since it had been a painstaking 80 days in the making. Not to mention the fact that this incredible baby had proven herself a true fighter and beaten the odds that had been stacked up against her.

That's certainly worthy of a celebration.

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Alana sewed Gloria a teeny-tiny red cap and gown, and also gave her her very won strand of pearls to wear.

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Hospital staff, particularly those who cared for Gloria during her stay, joined in on the celebration and lined the halls to say good-bye to the baby girl as she left.

"This is our first baby who really stayed with us during this new [coronavirus] time," DeeDee Cantu, a registered nurse and the NICU supervisor, told GMA. "It was very emotional. There were a lot of tears."

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It was a "graduation" of sorts — a ceremony celebrating Gloria's health, and her ability to finally leave the NICU after spending so much time there.

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Now the little baby weighs 6 pounds and is able to breathe on her own, though her parents were given oxygen tanks for extra support, need be.

Although she will continue to be monitored by doctors and early childhood specialists, Gloria is expected to grow and develop normally.

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Alana said her entire family plans on keeping in touch with the staff who took care of their precious baby girl.

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"They loved on her. They knew her," she said. "She wasn’t just a baby in bed 13. She was Gloria."

She also noted the relief of finally having her baby home with her and her husband, who held Gloria for the first time once she was discharged from the hospital.

"She’s right next to me now. That part has a been a relief," Alana said. "I feel like we can be a full family now."

h/t: Good Morning America, Facebook | South Texas Health System

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