Valentina Ferragni: «I, born prematurely, learned to fight straight away» | Prematurity Day 2023

Valentina Ferragni: «I, born prematurely, learned to fight straight away» |  Prematurity Day 2023

Of Chiara Bidoli

Monuments, hospitals, institutional sites will be dyed purple to celebrate “World Prematurity Day” which this year has as its testimonial, Chiara Ferragni’s youngest sister born thirty years ago at just 26 weeks

Are approximately 25,000 premature newborns who come into the world in our country every year, 1 in 10 children in the world. The November 17 is celebrated World Prematurity Daynow in its 15th edition, which aims to raise awareness on the topic of prematurity and on the importance of simple gestures capable of bringing great results, among all the skin-to-skin contact between baby and parent, the «
Kangaroo Care
», so precious for the health and well-being of the unborn child because it allows the development of physiological neural connections, minimizing the probability of developing neurodevelopmental problems in the newborn.
Among the godmothers of this day Valentina Ferragniborn at just 26 weeks, and her mother Marina Di Guardowho will participate in an event at the «Vittore Buzzi» Children’s Hospital in Milan, organized by OBM onlus, to testify that even a child born prematurely can become a healthy and fulfilled adult.
«I have always felt very strong, full of life, with a great desire to do, I’m not afraid to demonstrate or even to “sweat” – explains Valentina Ferragni in an interview with Corriere -. I don’t know if it’s an innate characteristic of mine or I’m like this because of what I’ve experienced, but without a doubt I feel strong. I am very grateful for the care I received, it was evidently effective and I was certainly lucky, I have always been able to do everything without ever having to set limits. I hope to be an example of hope for many parents who have a premature child.”

The testimony of the mother, Marina Di Guardo

«I was with my family in the mountains for the Christmas holidays and I lost my water at only 26 weeks of pregnancy», says the writer Marina Di Guardo, mother of Chiara, Francesca and Valentina Ferragni, who remembers, as if it were yesterday, the rush to the hospital in Bolzano and the great fear that accompanied her for the three months of her little girl’s hospitalization. «It was a devastating, strong experience, but one that also had a positive impact on me – says Di Guardo -. I still feel an enormous sense of gratitude and gratitude towards all those who helped us during the three months of my little girl’s hospitalization, I owe a lot to all the medical and nursing staff, especially to two sister doctors who I would like to thank publicly, Elena and Cristina Pedron, with whom I still remain in contact. After such an intense experience, emotional bonds are created that last a lifetime.”

When Valentina was born she only weighed 890 grams and already then, more than thirty years ago, it was practiced regularly in Bolzano Kangaroo Care which allowed mother and daughter to often be together, skin to skin. «Vale was intubated at the beginning, as soon as it was possible, I did the “Pouch therapy” and I remember those difficult moments, full of fear and hope, also very sweet. Such a small child, torn from his mother’s womb before his time, thanks to this practice can find himself in a situation similar to the one he lived in the womb, he can listen to his mother’s heartbeat, feel her smell, her touch, her his voice, – continues Di Guardo – I remember that when I arrived near the thermal cradle where my little girl was, the doctors found an increase in her heartbeat, I’m sure she knew I was coming to her and this detail excites me still a lot. That puppy understood much more than she seemed. On the occasion of this day I would like to give a message of hope. When parents see their little ones, so defenseless, in the incubator, they understandably despair. However, it is important that they are strong like their children, that they believe in them, in their ability to overcome critical moments, as happened to my Valentina.”

Neonatal Intensive Care at Buzzi between past and present

In the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at Buzzi there are more than 400 admissions a year, in the section dedicated to the most critical newborns, but there is also a small number of pathological children in the nursery. Gianluca Lista, Director of Intensive Care and Neonatal Pathology at Buzzi, underlines the great strides that have been made thanks to increasingly sophisticated technical tools and increasingly sophisticated medical treatments that cannot ignore the precious presence of parents. “In ’91 it was difficult to save newborns aged 27 weeks and weighing around 1.5 kg, but for a few years now we have been able to guarantee the survival of newborns aged 23 weeks and weighing 500 grams.” Over the years, the length of hospital stays has also significantly decreased and the hours of access to the NICU for parents has increased. «Years ago we discharged premature newborns only when they were at least 40 weeks old and weighed at least 2.5 kg, which meant very long stays with little involvement of the parents who could enter the NICU at reduced hours – explains Lista -. Now we discharge 35-week-old children who weigh 1,750/1,800 kg, we have significantly reduced hospital stays and now both mothers and fathers spend most of their time in intensive care because we know how much their presence helps their children.”

Over the years, the approach has also changed greatly delivery room. «We have understood that premature newborns must be helped in the transition from fetal to postnatal life and therefore we try to support the newborn by intervening in a very intensive but less aggressive way, rediscovering physiology a lot thanks to multidisciplinary work, the development of technology and practically fixed presence of parents – continues Lista -. It is also important for us psychological support which is given to parents during hospitalization and which, in cases where the premature baby is born at less than 30 weeks, also continues at home until the child is 8 years old to identify any neurological problems that could manifest themselves over time. The challenge for the future is to follow parents more after discharge and support them in the growth of their children for several years.” In the care of premature babies today, doctors are greatly helped by increasingly advanced technology, which allows them to make early diagnoses and improve care for the child. «The Ret-Cam, for example, allows us to identify and treat retinopathy, which is frequent in premature babies – explains Lista – while the trolley that OBM gave us allows us to assist the premature newborn with an intact umbilical cord, allowing better because mother and child are not separated during treatment.”

The challenges for caring for premature babies according to neonatologists

Among the objectives of the Italian Society of Neonatology for the assistance of premature newborns is the Family Integrated Care (FICare) which supports the full integration of families in the care of their children in NICU, through a complete framework of interventions with 4 main pillars: theenvironment, designed or adapted to support active participation 24 hours a day; L’education and support from the NICU team, in particular in the work of involving and supporting parents to be primary caregivers for their child; L’parental education/psychological support, through structured support programs including among peers, with the presence of appropriately trained senior parents; there active participation of parents in all department activities. «Even today, despite numerous scientific evidence, in most Italian NICUs, there is a lack of vision of the essential role of families as an integral part of the care experience», explains Luigi Orfeo, President of the Neonatologists. «We believe that the role of the SIN, in close collaboration with parents’ associations, is fundamental in proposing training courses and organizational supports for the implementation of family-centred care and for the consequent qualitative improvement of our departments. A small gesture that can certainly bring great results.”

November 17, 2023 (modified November 17, 2023 | 08:33)

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