Former NICU Parent Pays It Forward

Breann Bierman-Vogt’s life changed dramatically when her water broke at 23 weeks, much earlier than expected during her second pregnancy. She was admitted to the hospital on bed rest, toured the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) by wheelchair, and felt fear and despair as she worried about her unborn son.

Asher arrived at 29 weeks gestation, weighing 2 pounds, 6 ounces and needing a ventilator for his underdeveloped lungs to breathe. He spent eight months in the NICU and several months in the pediatric intensive care unit at Banner Children’s Hospital. Having a medically fragile baby was not what the Vogt family expected, and it was overwhelming for Breann.

“A member of the NICU social work team told me about Raising Special Kids and how they provide guidance, resources and, maybe what I needed the most: understanding for parents who have a baby in the NICU,” Breann shared. “Before bed rest, I barely knew anything about the NICU. Now I was trying to navigate it and my medically complex son’s many new diagnoses, as well as what home life would be like when we finally – hopefully – got out of the NICU. It included seeing a dozen specialists, having hours of in-home physical, occupational, feeding and speech therapy each week, being caretaker of my ventilator- and feeding tube-dependent child during the day, and having a home health nurse care for him overnight.”

There were so many new acronyms, medical terms, interventions and new equipment that Breann had to learn about quickly as she did everything possible to help Asher thrive.

“RSK made an incredible difference as I also struggled with postpartum depression with which NICU parents are at high risk of experiencing, but are often not diagnosed or treated,” Breann noted. “The Family Support team at Raising Special Kids helped me to find the resources my son needed, navigate Arizona’s systems of care and be a better advocate.”

The tremendous support her family received from Raising Special Kids inspired Breann to become a Parent Leader with the organization. She’s also a local advocate for the March of Dimes and was selected for the inaugural March of Dimes’ Gretchen Carlson Advocacy Fellowship in DC. She became chair of the NICU Parent Advisory Board at the hospital where Asher was born and serves as a peer-to-peer mentor with Project NICU. Breann is grateful she can use her experience as a NICU parent to help other families on their journeys.

Today Asher is a funny and bright first grader who enjoys reading Dogman books and playing golf and baseball. Breann has become quite adept at Major League Baseball player trivia because of her son’s passion for the sport. His doctors marvel at the miracle he is, and Breann shares he has overcome so much in his life thanks to all who believed in him and provided expert medical care and family support.

“RSK helped me navigate a world I knew nothing about at one of the lowest points in my life,” Breann said. “They brought the knowledge, firsthand experience and resources I needed on my son’s NICU journey and beyond. That’s why I became a parent leader volunteer, so I can pay it forward to families. While everyone’s NICU journey is unique, when I hear their stories, it brings me back to that difficult time and reminds me there can be light at the end of the tunnel when you have an amazing support system.”

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