Program Provides Support and Hope to Mom and Newborn

posted 5/31/23 -- Carolyne Ledesma no longer feels alone thanks to support she and her new daughter, Victoria, have received from multiple LCCAA programs.

“They’ve really helped me,” Carolyne said. “I was lonely, depressed. I didn’t know where to go with my pregnancy.”

As a pregnant woman with limited English, Carolyne faced job loss, eviction, utility bills she couldn’t pay and, later, threats to the health of her child. Seeking stability for her baby, she searched the Internet and found Pregnancy Support Services last October.

“Our first visit was an emotional visit,” said Melissa Carroll, the Community Health Worker who operates the Pregnancy Support Services program.

Born in Dominican Republic, Carolyne moved to Puerto Rico as a teenager and trained as a registered nurse. After several years working with Hospice patients, job prospects were severely curtailed by Hurricane Maria. Carolyne had visited her aunt in Lorain and saw many more opportunities for nurses. She was attending classes at Lorain County Community College to get her Ohio nursing license when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Carroll reached out to Early Head Start and Teresa Pagan joined the support team. The two began connecting Carolyne with Legal Aid for eviction help, with rent and utility assistance and more. A long process for getting an apartment through Lorain Metropolitan Housing Authority began.

Then in December, Carolyn had her 20-week ultrasound which found the baby had amniotic band syndrome.

Amniotic band syndrome (ABS) occurs when the lining of the amniotic sac is damaged during pregnancy, creating fibrous, string-like strands of tissue that entangle the fetus or parts of the fetus and or umbilical cord. Called amniotic bands, these strands may wrap around different parts of the developing body, restricting blood flow and disrupting the baby’s normal growth.

Victoria had bands wrapped around both her hands and one of her feet as well as a band dangerously close to the umbilical cord. Pagan and Carroll connected Carolyne with experts at Akron Children’s Hospital who recommended intrauterine surgery at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. She spent three weeks “sola” (alone) in Cincinnati with both Carroll and Pagan texting and calling her to support her through a successful surgery.

Then came multiple trips to Akron to check Victoria’s circulation, ultrasounds to make sure the bands hadn’t regrown and a trip to eviction court, all while Carolyne was on bed rest and unable to work.

“It was a long process,” Carroll said. “She had court while she was recovering so we helped her get a Spanish speaking legal aid volunteer. We also got her help with rent, utilities all at the same time.”

At 30 weeks gestation, Carolyne’s water broke. Fearing the worst, she went to the nearest hospital, Fairview, where Victoria was born two weeks later. She weighed only three pounds and two ounces.

“I feel this is where the miracle comes in because the baby didn’t need any oxygen, she was perfect,” Pagan said.

Fingers on both of Victoria’s hands are malformed and the toes on one of her feet are webbed. She has already begun physical therapy to work on reflexes and has some surgeries in her future. But Carolyne’s mother Griselda Nunez has now arrived from Dominican Republic and she continues to have the support of Carroll and Pagan.

“From the beginning, it was very hard emotionally, psychologically,” Carolyne said. “I remember Melissa told me you are not alone and I couldn’t believe these people. Now I’m so grateful.”

Pregnancy Support Services provides help through the baby’s first year and Early Head Start through age three, so the support she feels will continue. In addition to managing Victoria’s health, Carolyne will be working on her English skills and getting her Ohio nursing license.

“And then I’ll go visit her and she can take care of me,” Pagan said. “We are making memories together. This is the beginning of her successful life.”