Nick and Heather Law love travelling and have trekked around the United States, Scotland and Ireland. “Nick is a beer brewer so we’ve taken trips to various breweries to combine our love for travel and sampling libations,” says Mrs. Law.
The Mayfield Heights couple wanted to travel to as many destinations as they could before expanding their family. About three years into their marriage, they found out their next major trip would be nine months later — when they’d head to Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital for the birth of their baby.
“We were so excited to find out I was pregnant. I couldn’t wait to start preparing for the arrival of our sweet little baby,” remembers Mrs. Law.
She never dreamt that her preparation time would be cut short. “At 19 weeks, I had a checkup with my doctor and learned that my cervix was beginning to open,” says Mrs. Law. A rescue cerclage — essentially sewing the cervix closed to prevent an early birth — was performed. For the safety of her unborn baby and herself, Mrs. Law had to be on bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy.
About five weeks later, Mrs. Law began to bleed heavily. She and her husband decided to go to the Emergency Department at Hillcrest. “Once we got there, the bleeding stopped. I thought everything was ok,” recalls Mrs. Law.
The bleeding was due to a placental abruption — when the placenta peels away from the uterus. This serious pregnancy complication can deprive the baby of oxygen and nutrients.
Mrs. Law began to have contractions and, very unexpectedly, was in labor. The baby was breech, meaning the feet were coming out first instead of the head. Because of that and the other issues, an emergency cesarean section was performed. On May 4, 2016, Holly Law was born — 16 weeks early. She came into the world weighing one pound, five ounces and was 11 inches long.
“She was so tiny, her arms and legs looked like pencils,” says Mrs. Law. “The doctors told us that Holly’s chances of survival were very slim. We asked them to please save our baby.”
“Dr. Michelle and the caregivers in the NICU are truly special people. They laugh with you on the good days and hold your hand on the bad ones. Because of their care and my daughter’s will to live, I get to watch Holly laugh, clap and play.”
Holly was immediately transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where babies who are born prematurely receive their care. “Holly was a very fragile little baby when she came to the NICU,” remembers Michelle Elias Ruiz, MD, a neonatologist in the NICU at Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital. “Her chances of survival were extremely low. She had a fighting spirit — so I called her Super Holly.”
Holly’s first two months in the NICU were difficult. She had more bad days than good ones.
During this time, Holly had five blood transfusions and needed a breathing tube. She suffered a series of complications including a heart murmur, high blood pressure, air leakage from her underdeveloped lungs, and a potentially blinding eye condition.
A big NICU milestone for Holly was being able to have her breathing tube removed.
“I told her mom that if we could remove her breathing tube, I’d buy Holly a pink pony. Mrs. Law wasn’t so keen on the pony idea so we negotiated down to a pair of shoes,” jokes Dr. Elias Ruiz.
“Dr. Michelle is simply amazing. She always kept us well-informed and was with us every step of the way. Even if she wasn’t working she’d stop in to check on Holly,” says Mrs. Law. “The caregivers in the NICU became our friends.”
Despite having the odds stacked against her, Holly put up a strong fight. After spending four and a half months in the NICU, Holly was ready to go home. Dr. Elias Ruiz says, “It’s bittersweet seeing preemies leave the NICU. You grow so close to these families, but it’s amazing to see them go home needing minimal medical care. Holly truly is a little miracle.”
The Laws share their story with Hillcrest Hospital NICU support groups to give encouragement to other NICU families. “It helps other NICU families to see there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s gives them hope, inspiration and can be healing,” says Therese Razzante, NICU family support manager at Hillcrest Hospital.
Holly is now a feisty little girl who loves to climb everything, play with her dogs and sing songs by the Beatles and Bob Marley.
“Dr. Michelle and the caregivers in the NICU are truly special people. They laugh with you on the good days and hold your hand on the bad ones. Because of their care and my daughter’s will to live, I get to watch Holly laugh, clap and play,” says Mrs. Law.