Skip to main content

A Christmas Miracle: A Family’s Journey in the Huntsville Hospital Neonatal ICU

December 22, 2023 | Reading Time: 2 minutes
Ellis Gower

In the halls of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children, Brandon and Chaney Gower find themselves celebrating Christmas in a place they never expected.

Ellis Jay, their son who was born prematurely weighing just 13 ounces and measuring 10 inches long, has brought them to this intimate space where beeping monitors replace the sounds of jingle bells.

While not the ideal environment to spend the holidays, the Gowers are grateful for the nurses, staff and volunteers who have gone above and beyond to make their first Christmas as a family of three special.

“You never want to have a baby in the NICU, especially during the holidays,” Chaney said. “But it has been very heartwarming to see them give us as much normalcy as possible and still bring joy while our baby’s in the best place he can be.”

Due Dec. 6, Ellis Jay came early on Aug. 18 at 24 weeks, 2 days, due to HELLP Syndrome, a life-threatening pregnancy complication that affects a mother’s red blood cells, liver function and platelets. For the first six weeks after his unexpected arrival, Ellis Jay needed help breathing on a ventilator as he fought for his life.

Chaney has a unique perspective watching her son beat the odds as one of the smallest baby boys to survive the NICU at HH for Women & Children.

“I was a NICU nurse for Huntsville Hospital prior to becoming a nurse practitioner for adults,” she said. “I’ve actually been there on the other side and now I’m here as a parent.”

HH for Women & Children has pulled out all the stops to make the holidays memorable for families in the NICU. From festive decorations to fun crafts to an appearance from Santa himself, employees work hard to make the NICU feel a bit more like “home” for patients and their families.

On Christmas Day itself, Chaney said they will play Christmas music, read holiday-themed books and dress their miracle baby in cozy pajamas to celebrate the season.

The hospital also hosted a special Christmas dinner for NICU families like the Gowers, who view the HH for Women & Children staff as a second family.

“They are upfront that the NICU is like a rollercoaster with highs and lows, but they are very supportive throughout the process,” Chaney said. “Being here can be very overwhelming but the staff is so great at guiding you through the whole journey in the best way possible.”

Ellis Jay has grown to over 7 pounds since birth and is working on feeding with a bottle. Brandon and Chaney hope their son will be able to come home in early-to-mid January, if his health continues to improve.

“We’re in the last mile of the marathon,” Chaney said.

At Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children, we’ve got kids covered. Learn more about our mission to provide the most advanced pediatric health care in the region, including pediatric emergency services, pediatric intensive care, Level III neonatal intensive care and pediatric surgery.