Patient Spotlight: Max Bravo

Bonnie Bravo hoped that a quick trip to Bermuda would be the perfect getaway, one last vacation before baby number two arrived. The short flight seemed more than safe, especially since she was only 31 weeks pregnant. Digging her toes into the warm pink sand, gazing at the turquoise waves with her husband, Louie, and building castles on the beach with her two-year-old son, Louie, was heavenly for the 36-year-old Roxbury resident.  

The flight home, however, proved harrowing. Her water broke in mid-air. Once they landed, she and her husband dropped Louie off with a grandparent and rushed to Morristown Medical Center.

“I thought we’d be back home in a couple of hours,” says Mrs. Bravo. “But after being checked out, I was told I wouldn’t leave the hospital until I gave birth. I was shocked and scared, thinking, ‘How can this be happening?’  I was only 32 weeks pregnant, had no complications and had a 2-year-old son at home to take care of.  Having a preemie born so early was not anything we expected.”  

Then came grave news from hospital physicians. She had an excess of fluid in her amniotic sac, a condition called polyhydramnios that affects only one percent of pregnant women. To make matters worse, her unborn son had severe hydrops, which negatively impacts one out of every 1000 births.  They soon learned the excess fluid in his belly had spread to his kidneys, lungs and skin. Only half of unborn babies with this condition ever survive. 

“The next six days were torture – constant ultrasounds, blood work and echocardiograms,” says Mrs. Bravo. “I had an amniocentesis to relieve about 4 pounds of excess fluid, which also had risks, but we had to give our son every fighting chance. We were told we could have a priest in the delivery room in case things didn’t go as planned.  How could we tell our 2-year-old son, who was so excited to be a big brother, that he wouldn’t be?”   

Thankfully, they didn’t need to deliver such tragic news. On August 10, 2018, Max was born via emergency C-section, greeted by a slew of doctors and neonatologists in the delivery room. “Each neonatologist in the delivery room assumed a specific role in Max’s stabilization,” says Gaines Mimms, MD, a neonatologist and co-chair of the Goryeb Philanthropy Council. “This included placing a tube in his windpipe, tapping the infant’s abdomen to relieve excess fluid build-up, and placing a chest tube in his small, underdeveloped collapsed lung.”  

Then they raced him to Sam’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Max was in the right place.  Providing care for the highest risk babies in the metropolitan area, the center combines the latest medical and communications technology; individual patient/family rooms and a focus on family-centered care, addressing not only the complicated needs of sick infants, but also the emotional ups and downs of their parents – as the Bravos know so well. Made possible by a lead gift from Steve and Doris Salzberg in honor of Samantha Marie Salzberg, the center is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.  

Sam’s NICU was Max’s home for the next 50 days. After birth, he was hooked up to three different breathing machines, an eating tube and a chest tube. He also underwent blood transfusions, four stomach fluid taps and a surgery. 

Miraculously, he became better each day. 

“We’re grateful to all the doctors and nurses who played a part in our son’s treatment,” she says. “The odds were against Max. The doctors in Maternal Fetal Medicine and Sam’s NICU were fabulous. Max is a miracle.  We can’t thank Sam’s NICU enough.” 

To show their gratitude, the Bravos started the Max Bravo NICU Fund to support other families facing medical challenges with their babies. “I want other parents to have support in the NICU and to help kids with medical issues,” says Mrs. Bravo. “Our Max is the happiest baby boy on earth. He makes our hearts melt.”

Interested in contributing? Contact Gerri Kling, major gifts officer, at geraldine.kling@atlantichealth.org. To view all Foundation fundrasing pages, including Max’s, please visit the Fundraisers section of the website.

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