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U.S. Olympic hockey player Sarah Parsons, center, presents an autographed team jersey to Marianne Cummings and Steve Ringer last week in the NICU where she was a patient 18 years earlier.
Before taking to the ice in Italy with the U.S. women's Olympic hockey team next month, Sarah Parsons returned to BWH to thank staff for saving her life 18 years ago when she was born and nearly died of an infection.
"They saved my life, and I wouldn't be here today without them," Parsons told television and newspaper reporters gathered Jan. 18 at a press conference in the NICU Solarium.
Parsons, a native of Dover, was born at BWH one month premature on July 27, 1987. Hours after Parsons' arrival, an OB/GYN nurse noticed something was wrong. She unwrapped the baby to find her hands and feet had turned blue, and she was running a fever. Doctors determined that Parsons' mother had passed Group B streptococcal infection to her baby. Staff immediately transferred the baby to the NICU, where she received life-saving antibiotics.
Pregnant women today are tested for the infection before giving birth. "Without treatment, the infection spreads rapidly," said Steve Ringer, MD, PhD, cChief of Newborn Medicine. "In the olden days, it would almost certainly result in the baby's death."
Today, Parsons looks forward to a bright future that includes the Olympic games next month and an Ivy League education at Dartmouth College, which begins next fall. She wanted her visit to the NICU to offer hope to parents of the BWH's tiniest patients. "I'm hoping that if they see someone can come out of this, their child can, too, and they can do anything they want," Parsons said after touring the NICU. Her father, Paul, had looked for something to grasp onto for "a little bit of hope" when his daughter's future had seemed uncertain, she said.
Joan Parsons, Sarah's mother, said one of the NICU nurses had offered them words of encouragement. She told the Parsons, "I just want you to know that of all the babies here right now, your daughter probably has the best chance just by her sheer will," Joan informed reporters.
The same determination that helped Parsons to survive her life's first challenge is a contributing factor in her becoming the youngest player of the U.S. Olympic women's ice hockey team. Her gift to the NICU-an Olympic hockey jersey signed by the entire team-is a reminder to NICU parents of the exceptional care team in the NICU and a message of hope that anything is possible.
Sarah Parsons tours the NICU with Marianne Cummings, nurse manager.