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Thriving in the Midst of Chaos: Parenting With Special Needs Kids

Aug 20, 2020

Episode 51: Coping With NICU Stays While Abroad With Guest April Wilhelm

In this episode, we discuss managing NICU stays while attempting to return home abroad and also managing your newborn's special needs. Guest April Wilhelm was living in Japan, where her Navy husband was stationed. She went to visit her family in the States before giving birth. As she was on the way to the airport to return home, she went into labor! She thought she was experiencing Braxton Hicks, but her husband recommended that she get checked out by her doctor. She went to the ER, only to find out that she actually was in labor! Her water broke at 26 weeks. She had to transfer hospitals to one where they felt comfortable taking care of preemie babies. She gave birth 2-3 days later. Her daughter was in the NICU for 90 days.

For April, the NICU stay was really hard because she had nowhere to stay, and had to change hotels every few days. She also didn't have a car for transportation. Plus, her older son was with her and needed to stay with someone and attend school, since he was nowhere near his school. Eventually, she found a space at the Ronald McDonald House. Her husband was still on active duty, and could get a call from his command and would have to leave immediately. Her daughter's condition was also tenuous. Therefore, of course, April really struggled to cope. April experienced a lot of guilt in the NICU, because if her child was having a good day, another child might not be.

The Ronald McDonald House was really helpful to help April cope, because it was a positive atmosphere and the other parents often reached out to her. At the house, they provided counselors and cooked for her, and always asked how her daughter was doing. At the hospital, the resource and support center was able to help get her son enrolled in school. They helped her find cool places to eat, and gave her free bus passes to help her explore the city. After her daughter was released from the hospital, her family was unable to return to Japan, because there were very strict regulations and restrictions regarding health, and her daughter was deemed too sick to return. Her husband was transferred to San Diego, where her daughter would be able to get excellent care for her health conditions.

Currently, her daughter is experiencing developmental delays, but is making gains across the board. Her daughter was born with underdeveloped lungs, with subsequent chronic lung disease, due to being born so early, and she also heart heart defects. Her daughter is 17 months old and she still uses oxygen at night to reduce apneas. She also gets a shot every month to protect her lungs and her immune system. April has an older son, who goes to school. Unfortunately, if he brings illnesses home from school, her daughter's cold turns into pneumonia.

Reaching out to other people who understand what it is like was very helpful to April. Counseling has also been helpful. Having an outlet, such as work, was very useful.

Ronald McDonald House
Calm App
BuzzFeed Hot Mess Mom Video

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Show Music:
Intro Outro: Intro Outro 2 by Mattias Lahoud under CC-BY 3.0 License (
Theme Song: 90s rock style by monkeyman535 under CC-BY 3.0 License (
Self Care Song: Green and Orange No Water by Duncan Alex under CC-BY 3.0 License (

Hosted by: Jessica Temple and Lewis Temple

Disclaimer: Our show is not designed to provide listeners with specific or personal legal, medical, or professional services or advice. Parents of children with health issues should always consult their health care provider for medical advice, medication, or treatment.

Copyright 2020 Jessica and Lewis Temple