Meet the Joy Boys!
It almost seems like 22-month-old daredevil Nathan Joy is
preparing to climb Mount Everest this spring. He loves the
challenge of scaling the sides of his crib or climbing up and
over the living room couch. His twin brother, Lucas, no
slouch himself, is always game for another round of hideand-
seek or a 500th reading of Green Eggs and Ham.
When Mom and Dad—Aleksandra Dobkowski-Joy and her
husband, Christopher Joy—watch the boys play, it’s never
far from their minds that these two spunky youngsters were
born at just under 3 lbs. apiece and, thanks to Bridgeport
Hospital’s highly experienced Newborn Intensive Care Unit
(NBICU) team, overcame serious cardiac and lung problems.
Today, they are right on track and inspire everyone they meet.
More than two years ago, when Aleksandra and Christopher
visited the obstetrician’s office for her first ultrasound, their
only question was, "When is the baby due?" Looking at the
monitor, the parents-to-be were stunned to see two babies.
Aleksandra’s obstetrician, Leslie Goldstone-Orly, MD,
knew this pregnancy would now require additional expertise.
She sent them to the Antenatal Testing Unit (ante=before,
natal=birth) at Bridgeport Hospital, where Aleksandra saw
Chief of Maternal-Fetal Medicine Robert Stiller, MD.
Dr. Stiller answered all of her questions. "We talked about
the increased risks of preeclampsia (a condition involving
dangerously high blood pressure), diabetes of pregnancy and
pre-term delivery," Aleksandra recalls. "I listened and took
notes, but all the while I was thinking, 'This isn’t going to
happen to me!'"
Everything was fine until Aleksandra’s 22nd week of
pregnancy. Then—"I started having mild contractions, but
because this was my first pregnancy, I didn’t know they
were contractions," she says. Luckily, soon after the contractions
started, she had one of her regular appointments with
Dr. Stiller at Bridgeport Hospital.
"Aleksandra’s cervical length had decreased dramatically,"
says Dr. Stiller. "This is an early sign that the cervix is beginning
to dilate." In other words, Aleksandra could deliver any
day. As Christopher raced to the hospital, Aleksandra was
whisked down the hall to Labor & Delivery and was started
on medication to stop the contractions.
After two days, the contractions slowed, and
Aleksandra was moved into The Birthplace
at Bridgeport Hospital to take part in the
hospital’s Special Care Maternity
Program for high-risk mothers. Here,
physicians from the Perinatology
Team (doctors with specific expertise
in caring for high-risk pregnancies)
and specially trained nurses
kept close watch over Aleksandra
and her babies. Robert Herzlinger,
MD, Chief of Neonatology (the care
of very small or critically ill newborns),
visited her. He talked about
what might lie ahead for the babies, such
as brain, heart and lung problems that are
common in premature infants.
During the next five weeks in the hospital, Aleksandra took
her prescription for bed rest very seriously. "I got up only to
use the bathroom, and every other day I was allowed to take
a shower," Aleksandra says. "And we talked about names!"
She was seen daily by Dr. Stiller or another member of the Perinatology Team (Gina Dunston-Boone, MD, Gary
Kleinman, MD and Steven Laifer, MD), and had near-weekly
ultrasounds to monitor the babies’ growth. "It seemed
like a long time," says Aleksandra, "but I reminded myself
that each day I spent in The Birthplace meant another day of
important development for the babies."
At 28 weeks, the contractions started up again, but this time
they couldn’t be stopped.
Ultrasounds showed that both of her babies were lying
sideways in the womb. Aleksandra and her doctors decided
to go with a Cesarean birth.
The surgical team sprang into action, and Dr. Goldstone-
Orly delivered two boys: Lucas, the older, weighed 2 lbs.,
11 oz., and Nathan, 2 lbs., 13 oz. It was November 4, 2005.
"We were relieved but terrified," says Aleksandra. "Of
course, we feared the worst: Would they be able to breathe?
Would they develop normally?"
Bridgeport Hospital’s NBICU was waiting with open arms
for those tiny bundles of Joy. The team included neonatologist
and Associate Director Cheryl Menzies, MD, resident
physicians, physician assistants and neonatal nurse
practitioners skilled in the care of premature infants. "As
we observed the NBICU team’s obvious commitment,
skills and tenderness toward our babies-and toward us-
our fears were put in perspective," says Aleksandra.
"Like many premature infants, Lucas and
Nathan had underdeveloped lungs. At
first, they needed respirators to help
them breathe," explains neonatologist
Richard Freedman, MD, who is the
boys’ physician. "They had episodes
of apnea—interruptions of breathing
that are common in pre-term
infants—and Lucas needed treatment
for a partially collapsed lung."
Treatment with a surfactant (medication
that helps the lungs develop) and
oxygen therapy steadily improved the
The boys also experienced cardiac problems
caused by immature heart vessels common in premature
babies. The expert NBICU team quickly identified nonsurgical
A few days later, Aleksandra was well enough to continue
her recovery at home, but Nathan and Lucas were still too
small to leave the hospital. Going home without her two newborns was something she never imagined would happen.
But her heartache was eased when she realized how
seamlessly the NBICU team could provide a sophisticated
level of care in a nurturing environment.
After Aleksandra left the
hospital, Dr. Freedman
called her at home early
weekends and holidays!—
with updates from the
NBICU. "These daily calls
reassured me that the boys
were in good hands," she
says. She and Christopher
visited the boys every day,
and learned from the caring
NBICU nurses how to
delicately hold, swaddle,
burp and change such tiny
infants. On January 9,
2006, at nine weeks of age,
both Joy boys were finally
ready to settle into their
And still the staff kept a vigilant eye on the boys’ progress:
Neonatologist Christine Butler, MD, carefully observed and
examined their development through Bridgeport Hospital’s
Follow-Up Program, seeing them every six months.
The only one of its kind in Fairfield County, the Follow-Up
Program is critical to a child’s entire life. The program monitors
the mental and physical development of at-risk NBICU
graduates to determine early on if these infants might benefit
from interventions to address any of their special needs.
The examination tool Dr. Butler uses to evaluate child development is called the Infant and Toddler Developmental
Assessment Test. "This test helps us evaluate a