Category Archives: Everyday Miracles

NICU Small Wonders Miracle Walk Champion Family Twice As Blessed

Written on July 31, 2013 at 9:08 am, by

“I never dreamt that my birth experience would include an almost 60-day stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children’s Hospital of Illinois for my twin sons, but I thank God every day that this amazing team saved my babies,” shares Jessica Bradbury. Jessica’s pregnancy was difficult and she was placed on bed rest at 19 weeks.  She ultimately gave birth to her boys, Raef Francis and Blake Christian, at 30 weeks.  “I learned how to be a mother within the walls of the NICU.  I started my day with my boys by 7:30 AM, and I dreaded going home around 10:00 PM.  It’s not natural for parents to leave their newborns behind.”

Jessica always knew she was leaving her sons in capable hands, however. “I left them with nurses who loved to snuggle and rock them in their arms, doctors who marveled at how far they had come, receptionists that greeted me with joy in their voice when I called for the third time that night to make sure they were still doing great, charge nurses that listened to my concerns, a parent liaison that helped me more than she could ever know, respiratory therapists that jumped with excitement when breathing assistance was no longer needed and hospitality staff that whispered prayers as they tidied the room.  The list goes on and on.”  

Jessica has special memories of the nursing staff putting together a newborn photo shoot so that both brothers could be together side-by-side.  In preparing for their move home, she completed a mock-stay to see what life would really be like once the twins were brought home.  

There were also dark days. “Nothing prepares you for hearing that your child most likely has cerebral palsy or holding your sons in your arms as they endure a grueling blood transfusion through IVs in their heads.  Feeling torn when one baby goes home, but the other isn’t quite strong enough.” Jessica notes the NICU team supported her and the boys through all of these difficult times, encouraging and empowering them.  

“My babies were baptized in the Airplane neighborhood of the NICU and my baby shower was held in the lobby.  Small gifts of love were presented to me – pictures that were captured after I left for the night, tiny stamped footprints, and stacks of stories for me to read to them in their isolates.  The team not only cared for my babies, they cared for me, too.” Jessica was thankful for the encouragement she received through all of the setbacks. Like many of our NICU families, the NICU essentially became a home-away-from-home for Jessica.  

She also found comfort in the fact that the NICU team was available once the boys were strong enough to go home. She notes she was able to talk with the Nurse Practitioners when something didn’t seem quite right.

“My sons thrived because of the care they received at the NICU.” Raef and Blake are now 2 ½ and, despite many hospital stays and specialist intervention, the boys are thriving.  

Raef follows up with a pediatric ophthalmologist for vision issues and a speech therapist for a bit of a delay.  Raef loves mowing with his bubble mower outside, helping mommy bake in the kitchen and playing flash cards. 

Blake has had the most set-backs, which is typical of Twin B.  However, all of his providers are amazed at his outcomes!  He receives physical therapy, occupational therapy, feeding therapy and is followed by a developmental pediatrician.  Blake loves to swim, watch Disney’s Cars and listen and dance to music.

“I am frequently asked, if I knew then what I know now, would I go through it all over again? The answer is absolutely!  I am constantly reminded of the joy that God brought into my life and that He equipped my family to be in the care of the NICU.  All I have to do is look at my children holding hands, hear their sweet voices reciting nighttime prayers or cuddle them in my arms to know how blessed I am. NICU holds a special place in my heart.”

Jessica, Raef and Blake will serve as the Champion Family for the 2013 NICU Small Wonders Miracle Walk. The walk, a celebration of the lives touched by the NICU, will be held on Saturday, October 19th at the Peoria RiverPlex to raise funds to support family programming, educational classes and activities with the NICU. Learn more about this special event.

Legacy of Hope

Written on May 6, 2013 at 1:45 pm, by

Caring for our smallest patients with the “greatest care and love” is at the core of the Sisters’ Mission at OSF.  Children have been a focused part of the compassionate care of the Sisters since they came to Peoria, IL over 135 years ago.  Our donors have embraced this Mission and we are eternally grateful!  Recognizing the impact planned gifts will make in providing future support for Children’s Hospital of Illinois, the Children’s Hospital of Illinois Foundation, part of the OSF Healthcare Foundation, is pleased to announce the Legacy of Hope planned giving program. 

A planned gift is a promise for the future and can be designated to any Care Center within Children’s Hospital of Illinois.  It can be as simple as remembering the Children’s Hospital of Illinois through a bequest in your will, or as creative as a charitable gift annuity that creates life income for you or a loved one now and support for this life affirming Mission in the future.  It is always a humbling experience when a person shares their intent to support Children’s Hospital of Illinois through a planned gift.  Being remembered alongside family is an honor and the Children’s Hospital of Illinois Foundation is committed to providing responsible stewardship for these meaningful gifts.

The Legacy of Hope will serve every community within our OSF Ministry. Membership in the Legacy of Hope begins with a planned gift decision.  We understand this is a very personal decision.  We respect that and keep all planned gift information confidential according to our donors’ wishes.  If you choose to share this information with us, we would be grateful for the opportunity to say “Thank you” and welcome you as a member of the Legacy of Hope for Children’s Hospital of Illinois. 

We invite you to learn more about the Legacy of Hope by visiting our new website at  Planned giving information specific to Children’s Hospital of Illinois is available in a resource-rich page that is also connected to the OSF Legacy of Hope website for the OSF Healthcare Foundation.  Timely news articles, donor stories, explanations of different types of planned gifts, opportunities to request or download additional information, and even a free, confidential online wills planner is available there to help you create your own legacy.  And when you’re ready, we are one “click” or phone call away!  We invite you to visit often!

For more information on the Legacy of Hope, please contact, Micki McCarthy, Director of Planned Giving for the Children’s Hospital of Illinois Foundation. Phone: 309.566.5653 or 877.574.5678

Join the Smith Family in the Fight to the Finish

Written on January 3, 2013 at 1:09 pm, by

The inaugural Fight to the Finish, a 5K race of extreme obstacles and challenging terrain, to benefit Children’s Hospital of Illinois is set for April 27th at Jubilee State Park. The patients and families helped through Children’s Hospital face obstacles everyday-some small and some life changing. As you pull yourself up a brick wall, crawl through the mud and fight to get through the water first, you’ll be reminded of the challenges our patients fight to overcome each day. The Smith Family shares their family’s amazing journey below in hopes you’ll join them in the Fight to the Finish.


We were 12 weeks into our pregnancy in January 2011 when we learned during an ultrasound we were expecting twins. Our emotions quickly went from excitement and surprise to fear and confusion when there appeared to be a problem with one twin. The next week we met with the Maternal Fetal Specialists and they confirmed that Aubree had a massive cystic hygroma.  They said it was unlikely that she would make it to term, but while accepting reality, we also remained hopefully optimistic.  However our hope turned to reality when Aubree’s hygroma turned into hydrops, which is a serious condition in which abnormal amounts of fluid can build up on a fetus.  Due to all the fluid she was retaining, Aubree’s little heart stopped beating in the early hours of April 23, 2011.  Aubree and Alexis were delivered at 27 weeks 4 days. Although not initially diagnosed, our identical twin girls also had twin-to-twin transfusion.  Due to that, Alexis lost the majority of her blood to Aubree and Alexis was born with less than 25 percent of her blood volume.   In the delivery room, we were told her chances of survival were not good.

But God works miracles, and used the amazing staff of Children’s Hospital of Illinois Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to aid in our miracle.  Alexis is a strong girl and has made great progress.  She was born at 2 pounds 4 ounces and 13 ¾ inches long.  During her hospital stay, she suffered a Grade 4 brain bleed (doctors gave her a 95% chance of Cerebral Palsy), chronic lung disease (spent 94 days on the ventilator and breathing machines), and feeding difficulties (requiring surgery and feeding tube).  After 97 days in the NICU, our little miracle came home to her big sister and to meet her big brother!

Alexis is now a year and a half old.  She is almost 14 pounds, crawling everywhere and cruising along furniture!  Her feeding tube was removed and she is eating great.  She has been diagnosed with some vision issues but continues to make progress each day.  She is considered low tone but currently showing no signs of Cerebral Palsy and is reaching her milestones, just in her own time!  Alexis continues with feeding therapy, physical therapy and vision therapy and we couldn’t be more grateful for our therapists’ support!  We thank God every day for our precious miracle, wishing we could still have Aubree here with us, but knowing we will again hold our little girl in Heaven.

Our family will forever be grateful to Children’s Hospital.  Our little Alexis wouldn’t be here today if not for the Grace of God, the neonatologists, nurses and countless other individuals who were instrumental in her care.  We are blessed to have such an amazing Children’s Hospital and state-of-the-art NICU right here in Peoria!   

Matt, Lisa, Campbell, Carson and Alexis Smith

Register for the Fight to the Finish