After a serendipitous encounter in the hospital between a doctor and the father of a newborn baby, the doctor was invited to hold the baby girl. He was moved to tears as two years prior, he had gone above and beyond his call of duty to help the couple’s son, who died just 36 hours after being born.
Mom-of-four Dana Romano, 35, shared on Facebook the moving photo of neonatologist Dr. Jacob McPadden holding her newborn daughter, Olivia, who was born at Yale New Haven Hospital, in acknowledgment of her family and their doctor’s incredible journey together.
Dana and her husband, Dan, 38, who are also parents to Angelo, 7, and Matteo, 5, lost their third child, Julian, on Aug. 4, 2019.
“He was diagnosed with fetal hydrops, which is when abnormal amounts of fluid build up in a fetus, or newborn, in two or more areas of the body … hydrops has a very low survival rate,” Dana explained to The Epoch Times. “Julian had skin edema from his head to his toes, as well as fluid in his lungs and abdomen that unfortunately couldn’t be stopped.”
Dana and Dan first learned that Julian had fluid buildup at their 19-week scan. Dana was monitored weekly and there was no hydrops found until after delivery. They knew their baby would spend time in the NICU, but had no idea he would be more sick than any of their doctors had anticipated.
“Julian lay silently on me after delivery, for 10 seconds, before they took him to immediately start draining fluid,” Dana recalled. “We thought doctors were working on getting him stable so we can then come up to see him, or so we thought.”
However, things took a different turn when their nurse received a call asking them to get up right away.
“I remember sitting in the wheelchair, being pushed by the nurse. There was no baby in my arms. There were no tears of happiness, no congratulatory wishes as we made our way up,” she lamented. “Instead, I sobbed hard as we passed people in the hallway, their sorrowful looks gazing up at me as I cried out for my son.”
Seeing a baby sprawled out, tubes every which way, machines beeping, it took a few minutes for Dana to realize that it was Julian, as he appeared “lifeless and swollen.”
Upon hearing his diagnosis, Dana fell sobbing into her husband’s arms. The couple cried as the doctors sprang into action in getting Julian to become stable.
Comfort and clarity came in the form of Dr. McPadden, who took the time to explain to the heartbroken parents what was happening to their son. Even when Julian’s oxygen levels plummeted below levels his body could cope with, the doctor insisted on trying just one more procedure.
“He warned us that it probably wouldn’t work, and ultimately, we would face the inevitable of losing him, but that he would go in, once again, and give it his all,” said Dana. “And that’s just what he did.”
Tragically, Julian couldn’t be saved. Dr. McPadden sat with the devastated couple and cried with them. He offered to stay with them in Julian’s final moments, knowing how scared of saying goodbye they were.
He also attended Julian’s funeral, called to check on the Romanos numerous times, and joined them to speak with a geneticist to dig deeper into Julian’s case. “His heart broke just as ours did,” said Dana.
The couple was extremely grateful to him because he did all the things he wasn’t even required to do.
Now, two years later, seeing Dr. McPadden holding Olivia brought a rush of emotions to the mom of four.
“It brought me back to Julian,” she confided. “To know this was the same doctor who cried with us as we said our final goodbyes, to now being able to share in this incredible amount of joy, love, and gratitude we had for our daughter being here, being healthy, being alive, was truly mind-blowing.
“It felt like Julian was with us, watching it all unfold,” she reflected, “and in many ways, that’s what I believe; he helped make it happen.”
To commemorate Julian in a physical way, Dana and Dan also have a keepsake teddy bear handmade from the clothes he was wearing when he took his last breath, naming it “Julian’s Bear.”
In sharing the photo of Dr. McPadden holding Olivia with tears in his eyes, Dana hopes that other doctors will be reminded not to lose sight of why they went into their profession, to begin with. “A little love and grace goes a long way, and can leave a major impact on one’s life,” she explained.
Dana, an elementary school teacher, and Dan, a social worker, live with their family in Branford, Connecticut. Besides being a wife and mother, it has become part of Dana’s mission in life to raise awareness on pregnancy and infant loss since losing Julian. She has since channeled her grief into writing pieces and has pledged to continue to be a voice for “loss parents everywhere” when they struggle to find the words. She also chronicles her life on Instagram.
Grief and joy can coexist, she says, and Dr. McPadden’s compassionate role in their lives made them feel that Julian’s life mattered. Their heartache was validated.
“I’ll never forget when Dr. McPadden told me to not ever stop talking about Julian,” she told The Epoch Times. “I’m sure both Julian and Dr. McPadden will be happy to know that I’ve kept my promise, and will continue to raise awareness on pregnancy and infant loss, and speak Julian’s name, until my last breath.”