Serving patients and families of Pediatric & Adult Medicine (PAM), a part of the CHOC Primary Care Network, for nearly 25 years would give anyone a unique perspective of CHOC.
But for Rosie Echevarria, a front office administrator, that understanding goes even deeper. After all, both of her children required an extra level of care in CHOC’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) when they were born decades ago.
“When I joined PAM, I didn’t have children at the time, but I knew that when I eventually started having kids, that they would be born at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange,” Rosie says. “That way, they could be right across the street from NICU if anything were wrong and they needed extra care. A lot of our patients had been treated at CHOC, and I just sort of knew that if my future babies went to CHOC, that everything would be OK.”
Rosie had no way of knowing that she would indeed become a NICU mom.
Clarissa, Rosie’s eldest child, was born at St. Joseph via C-section at 29 weeks gestation. Rosie stayed behind to recover from surgery while Clarissa was quickly transported to CHOC’s NICU. Facing a premature birth and the unexpected hospitalization of her first baby left Rosie feeling scared and worried.
“My husband stayed by our daughter’s side, and when they got to the NICU, the doctors explained to him everything that was happening to our daughter,” Rosie says.
Rosie was able to join her daughter in the NICU the next day.
“Once I was transported up to the NICU in my wheelchair, the nurses reassured me that they would take care of my baby night and day, and that I could visit anytime,” Rosie says. “They explained everything that would happen, and what all the monitors she was hooked up to were for—I was included in every decision and considered part of the team.”
Rosie fondly recalls the personal way that Clarissa’s team of NICU nurses cared for her daughter 20 years ago.
“Because she was so little, she couldn’t really open her eyes—so her nurses made her a little eye mask with eyelashes and eyes,” she says. “It was so cute!”
Clarissa spent almost three months in the NICU.
“The care she received was absolutely the best, from day one to release date,” Rosie recalls. “The doctors were wonderful as well. I think my daughter had the very best doctor because I would get a call every single time anything would happen, or if I needed to get to the hospital right away.”
During that time, she needed two blood transfusions. Before she could be discharged, CHOC nurses trained her parents on how to care for her using equipment she took home, including an oxygen tank and an apnea machine.
“They explained everything to me and reassured me that there was no need to be afraid—that Clarissa wasn’t in danger,” Rosie says.
A few years later, her son, David, was born at 32 weeks gestation at St. Joseph Hospital, and was immediately transported to CHOC’s NICU. Since Rosie already had a little one at home, she couldn’t spend as much time with her son in the NICU as she had spent when she was a first-time parent.
“I was very sure the nurses would take really good care of him because I had already experienced it the first time,” she says. “I was never in fear that my child wasn’t taken care because I know the level of care that the CHOC NICU provides.”
David stayed in the NICU for two weeks before he was ready to go home — although his mom recalls that at that time he was never quite ready to wake up.
“He loved to sleep! He would never wake up. So, when we were getting discharged, we went home with a monitor and caffeine that staff showed me how to use and administer.”
These days, Clarissa is studying forensics at UC Irvine. She loves to travel and go to concerts with her mom. Clarissa lives with cerebral palsy and receives care from Dr. Samuel Rosenfeld, a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at CHOC. David is a high school student who loves illustration and dreams of becoming an art teacher.
Because of their prematurity, both had eye surgery when they were younger. Both sister and brother have regular eye exams with Dr. David Sami, a pediatric ophthalmologist at CHOC.
“The three words that come to mind when I think of CHOC are: caring, loving and reassurance,” Rosie says. “Doctors and nurses provide such excellent care and treat their patients as if they were their own children. As a first-time mom, I didn’t know what to expect, but I was never in fear. CHOC made me feel like everything was going to be OK.”
CHOC Hospital was named one of the nation’s best children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report in its 2020-21 Best Children’s Hospitals rankings and ranked in the neonatology specialty.