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Meet Keanah Lopez

"Hi my name is Keanah, I am 16 years old now. My parents often tell me how special I am—that I’m one of a kind. You see, I was born very early. My parents have shared little pieces of my NICU stay with me over the years. I personally don't remember any of my time in the NICU, but I think it has made me the strong-willed little lady I am today.

There are some quirky things that make me who I am. We think it may or may not have something to do with my extended stay in the NICU.  I can’t stand the smell of hand sanitizer or alcohol wipes. When I was younger I would say it was a ‘doctor smell.’

I also had the hardest time going to the dentist and allowing them to use suction on me. My dentist would let me suction my own mouth when I was younger. I like to be in control. So yeah, that’s a little bit of who I am today."

—Keanah Lopez

Keanah Lopez, former NICU patient
Keanah Lopez, former NICU patient

Keanah was born with her twin sister Ariana. They were born at 24 weeks gestation. Keanah spent five months, (that’s 150 long days) in the NICU. Keanah’s twin sister Ariana lived for nine short days. Even though Ariana is no longer with us, we hold her very close to our hearts. Keanah’s time in the NICU was definitely not easy, but she prevailed. She was so strong all the way up until our discharge date.

Let me tell you, she was feisty in the NICU and continues to be the strongest person I know. We all found a hidden strength within ourselves throughout this experience. When our twins had to be delivered, we were confused, nervous, emotional, and very afraid.  We didn’t know what was headed in our direction and the unknown was extremely frightening. We learned so much from our NICU experience. Our family came out stronger on the other end of our NICU journey.

While being in the NICU, Keanah needed to be on a ventilator for a long time. She had struggled to get off the ventilator. There were many failed extubating attempts which means many re-intubations. Keanah had a large PDA (patent ductus arteriosus) which needed surgical intervention for it to close. She required multiple blood product transfusions.

She had a couple NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis) scares where her feedings had to be stopped. When this happened it meant another needle stick and more IVs and fluids. She had several rounds of antibiotics to fight infections. We remember every time we felt as if she was moving forward, another infection would strike.

She would have another severe A&B (apnea & bradycardia) requiring manual breaths or sometimes re-intubation. People often hear being in the NICU is a roller coaster ride, we learned real quick as to why that’s said. Keanah endured weekly eye exams all the way up until the end of her stay. She developed severe ROP (retinopathy of prematurity), Keanah was going to need laser surgical intervention to prevent blindness. 

As Keanah’s mother, I remember being so excited when Keanah was finally ready to start learning oral feedings. I remember being so excited about all the breast milk I had pumped over the last 8-10 weeks, and was finally going to be enjoyed by my baby.

We think at this point Kiki was getting tired. Keanah had been through so much by this point, she didn’t always enjoy taking her bottle. We learned a lot about feeding a bottle to a preemie. Sometimes it’s not as straightforward as someone might think. Some of her struggles followed us out of the NICU for a long time afterwards. Let’s just say she didn’t enjoy that smash cake on her first birthday.

We prevailed through our NICU stay. Here we are today, 16 years into Keanah’s journey. Keanah’s life doesn’t come without challenges, but there’s nothing she can’t push through with her strong personality and her family's support. Overall Keanah is doing very well. Let’s keep in mind she’s a teenager! Keanah’s now in a different phase in life which comes with new experiences and challenges.

The good news is, Keanah loves having delicious desserts.

Meet Our NICU Alumni

This is a special project that documents our NICU alumni. We are so grateful to watch these amazing young patients grow into their lives, despite a challenging start.