Stillwater third-grader gives back

Jaelyn Gilmore in the NICU at Morristown Memorial Hospital as a preemie
By Laurie gordon

STILLWATER — The care Jaelyn Gilmore received at the NICU at Morristown Memorial Hospital is something her family will never forget. On her third birthday, the Gilmores made the decision to give donations to the unit. Jaelyn is now in third grade, and every year, instead of getting birthday gifts, she collects donations for the NICU. She was born way before her due date, and this preemie will always give back to the place where her life started.
Jaelyn Gilmore was born at 28 weeks weighing one pound 12 ounces and 13 ½ inches long. Though her mother, Amanda Gilmore's, due date was September 29, 2010 she was born on July 6.
Jaelyn Gilmore spent 93 days in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and finally came home Oct. 7 weighing five pounds, seven ounces.
“At a week old she had her first abdominal surgery,” Amanda Gilmore said. “She had a complete blockage in the first quadrant of her small intestines. She had about 10 inches of her small intestines removed. At this time she was too little to reconnect her intestines so she had to wear a colostomy bag for about three months until she grew enough (just about to five pounds) to have her reconnection surgery.”
Her reconnection surgery was on Sept. 22. During her time in the NICU she was known as the “Rockstar.”
Amanda Gilmore said, “She was breathing on her own from the beginning, which is a rarity for a baby that is so early. She had to learn how to feed from a bottle and this was a tough thing for her because she had to learn how to suck swallow and breathe, which full term babies are born knowing how to eat. She really flourished in the NICU and once she learned how to bottle feed that was it for her. She gained weight like a champ. We can’t thank the doctors, nurses and staff in the Morristown NICU enough for all they did to help Jaelyn in every way they could. We still keep in contact with some of the nurses and doctors we met there and also some of the other families we met while in the NICU.”
The family did face some challenges with Jaelyn being a preemie and her abdominal surgeries.
“One of the first challenges we faced was with her under developed lungs,” Amanda Gilmore said. “She faced severe respiratory infections for the first couple years of her life. Now when she gets a little cold it still goes right to her chest/lungs. She does still have some asthma she deals with on a daily basis but she is doing well with that. She also would throw up a lot when she was little if she ate too fast or too much formula. Her little belly just couldn’t handle it. She has overcome this obstacle fully.”
“She is now growing well and has a great diet,” her mother added. “One of the most recent challenges she is facing is she has a little bit of a learning disability, which she is getting the help she needs at Stillwater School and we couldn’t be more proud of her for how hard she works and so thankful to Stillwater School for giving her all the resources she needs.”
“When we started giving to the NICU, my husband, Bobby, and I had hopes that Jaelyn would want to continue it as she got older and understood why we started it,” Amanda Gilmore said. “On her fourth birthday we explained to her about giving back and we gave her the option of collecting donations for the NICU or getting presents for herself and she chose to collect items for the babies in need in the NICU. Then again for her 5th birthday we gave her the same choice and she chose the same. For her seventh and eighth birthday Jaelyn came to my husband and I and told us, before we even asked her, that she wanted to collect donations for the babies in the NICU because she has everything she needs and there is nothing she wants.”
Jaelyn Gilmore said, “I started doing this because I love the NICU and it is fun to help the babies. Its fun to deliver the items I collected to people who need them.” She added, “It makes me feel happy to help the babies and give back. I am helping the NICU the way they helped me.”