Meet Pierce Franks, our March Mighty Bee! Pierce was honored to participate in Hugo’s Hero at a recent Hornet’s game – take a look at this awesome video clip from his special evening with Hugo and the Hornets – thank you Charlotte Hornets for this amazing opportunity!
Let’s start from the beginning, can you tell us how you learned about the pregnancy and your initial reaction?
In 2010, my husband and I found out we were expecting our first child. We were so excited and eager to start this new chapter in our lives.
When did you find out that things in the pregnancy were not going perfectly? Did you know you would have to spend time in the NICU?
Pierce’s labor came on spontaneously, without any prior complications. To be honest, I didn’t even know I was in labor at first. I had a general feeling that something was “off,” but it wasn’t until I was regularly contracting that I realized something was really wrong. At 23 weeks, no one expects to go into labor. And the very last thing you expect is to deliver a baby the same day.
Share what you are comfortable with about the NICU experience for your baby.
Because of the emergent circumstances, Pierce was born at CMC-Pineville and transferred to Levine Children’s Hospital. We were told that he only had a 5% chance of survival due to his gestation (23 weeks 5 days) and the lack of prenatal steroids. The next 6 weeks are a blur as they were filled with a lot of chaos and unknowns. We almost lost him numerous times. There were infections, brain bleeds, surgeries and countless procedures. Thankfully, after 118 days in the NICU, Pierce was able to come home.
When did you get to hold Pierce for the first time?
I first held Pierce when he was a month old.
I know you had to leave the NICU on some extra equipment, which makes for having anyone else help hard since they might not be trained. How have you handled leaving Pierce with another person?
Even at 8 years old, it can be a struggle to leave Pierce with someone who is not trained. He has occasional seizures and requires a lot of help with mobility. Thankfully, he’s able to communicate many of his needs verbally, but he does still require care.
What was the biggest challenge that you had to face for Pierce since being home?
Pierce has had six brain surgeries since coming home. This and his seizures have brought on repeated hospital stays, which has been one of the most challenging things. On top of this, he has had developmental delays which have led to countless hours in various therapies.
Did you have a lot of fears or anxieties regarding germs once you brought your baby home?
Absolutely! Eight years out and we still struggle through flu season. Because of his “wimpy white boy lungs,” we’ve had to be overly cautious about germs. A simple cold can easily land him in the hospital needing supplemental O2 and antibiotics.
When did you know that Pierce would need extra therapies?
We knew, given his NICU history, that he would need extra therapies immediately upon discharge. Thankfully, we’ve always been blessed with positive therapists who saw his potential as unlimited!
How did you hear about Bee Mighty?
I’ve been blessed to watch Bee Mighty grow since it’s beginnings. Candace, the founder and I have been close friends, and we both shared a passion for supporting NICU families. Today, I’m blessed to work closely with Bee Mighty and am so grateful for the work they’re doing to support local NICU grads!
What does a typical day with Pierce look like now?
Pierce is now in second grade. I always say that I wish I had been able to see how “normal” our life would look on the day we were given his grim prognosis. He has had to work hard for so many of his gains, but its truly remarkable to see where he is at today. He does have weekly therapies, but at this point, we just try to integrate those into our daily routine and they often times can be fun, like horse therapy or aquatic therapy!
Any advice you would give another family going through the process? Anything that really helped you get through the experience?
My biggest advice would be to not listen to the statistics or predictions. Let your child chart their own course and never set a limit on how far he or she can go. Keep your standards for them high, and treat them as normally as possible. Surround yourself with positive folks who will listen and encourage you along the way!