One pound and 12 ounces of pure joy, love and fight entered our world on July 23, 2015. Olivia was born at 28 weeks and could fit perfectly in the palm of her grandpa’s hand.
Since that day, Olivia and her family have faced some of the most challenging, but also rewarding battles. They spent 13 and a half months in the NICU at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital before transferring to ChildServe’s Pediatric Rehabilitation Unit.
As a result of her premature birth, Olivia has 13 different diagnoses that include various cardiac, lung and developmental delays. When Olivia arrived at ChildServe she was 18 pounds, ventilator dependent and had weight management concerns from her prolonged hospital stay.
It wasn’t long before everyone at ChildServe got to know Olivia’s positive, silly, determined and outgoing personality.
“Olivia was spunky,” said Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit Manager Megan Nikolish. “She was one of those babies that we had to keep an extra close eye on because as she progressed developmentally and physically she was on the move!”
When kids enter ChildServe’s Pediatric Rehabilitation Unit, life continues to happen like celebrating holidays and birthdays. For Halloween, Olivia decided to dress up as her favorite character, Minnie Mouse. She even started her own bow trend and encouraged all of her nurses to hop on the fashion statement.
“Olivia has a huge laugh that made all of her nurses smile while she was on the unit,” said Megan. “She is a great kid and made so much progress in her time here that it was fun to watch her grow and change.”
During Olivia’s stay at ChildServe, she was able to start breathing completely on her own without the ventilator, which made finding a homecare nurse, completing training and gathering equipment much easier to navigate for her family.
“By the end of her stay, she was eating food orally, sitting and standing by herself, and developmentally she was taking off,” said Megan.
“Multiple nurses and respiratory therapists on the rehabilitation unit played a significant role in Olivia’s recovery,” said Paige Baker, Olivia’s mom. “Our biggest goal for Olivia was to get her home.”
In February 2018, with a tremendous amount of support from her family and care team, Olivia was strong enough to finally go home for the very first time since she was born. The family was paired with their first homecare nurse, Julie Accola, who provided great partnership in helping ease their transition home.
Now, Olivia just celebrated her seventh birthday and continues to radiate joy, love and fight in all that she does. Olivia has progressed so much in her development that as of June 2022, she graduated from ChildServe‘s Homecare services. She will continue to receive physical, occupational, speech and feeding therapies through ChildServe.
“Thanks to homecare, we can keep Olivia closer to us,” said Paige. “Homecare has allowed us to be able to care for her while at home as well as encourage her to learn and grow in her own environment.”
Olivia has been with her current Homecare nurse Cathy Betker for four years, and their unique bond is one-in-a-million.
“Olivia is a remarkable kid,” said Cathy. “She is really smart, has a huge vocabulary and has the memory of an elephant. If I tell her something on Friday, when I see her on Monday she can recite almost word-for-word what I said.”
When Cathy first met Olivia, she wasn’t walking or crawling. Cathy has had a front-row seat to watch Olivia meet incredible milestones thanks to the determination and support of her family and their partnership with ChildServe’s outpatient therapy team.
Support from the whole family allowed Olivia to blossom and make strides toward her goals.
When the pandemic started, Cathy helped Olivia start telehealth therapy. Oftentimes when Olivia faced a new challenging task in therapy, her big brother Clayton would help her by completing the task alongside her. Her mom was dedicated to Olivia’s growth, practicing activities at home, and encouraging her each step of the way.
“Thanks to the skills Olivia worked on in therapy, she is now running, skipping, talking a mile a minute and trying new foods,” said Cathy. “Her motor skills have got so much better. She used to wear AFOs (supportive leg braces), but those are no longer needed and her balance is great.
“The therapy team at ChildServe and Olivia’s family have been outstanding to partner with. Whenever I had a question they were always willing to answer.”
A few of Olivia and Cathy’s favorite activities to do together include reading, listening to music and playing with bubbles, but their all-time favorite activity is snuggling up on the recliner and watching a Disney princess movie.
“I feel so fortunate to have played a part in Olivia’s big journey and support the work her family does each day to help her live a great life,” said Cathy. “Olivia is always happy, extremely intelligent and has done so well in her progression because of her spunky personality. She is very determined and always strives for more, just like her mom. Olivia and her family are remarkable, they truly are.”
ChildServe improves the health and well-being of 5,700 children each year through specialized clinical, home, and community-based programs and services. We serve children with developmental delays, disabilities, injuries, and other special healthcare needs.