Jessica’s Story: Mom and Twins Survive High-Risk Pregnancy and Premature Birth and are Now Thriving

Jessica Franjul-Pena is grateful for the care she and her twins, Ethan Lorenzo and Katalina, received at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network.

Because Jessica conceived through in vitro fertilization, she was monitored closely from the start of her pregnancy. When she was eighteen weeks pregnant, Jessica was diagnosed with chronic hypertension. She was immediately referred to a maternal medicine specialist at Westchester Medical Center. Ultrasound monitoring also later revealed that one of the twins was not thriving as she should have been, and doctors decided to watch the babies even more closely.  

“I had great doctors,’’ said Jessica. “They were really on top of my case, monitoring me and the babies every step of the way.”

Thirty-three weeks into her pregnancy, Jessica’s doctors discovered her liver enzymes were dangerously high. She had developed superimposed preeclampsia, putting both her and the babies at risk. At that point, her medical team decided it would be safest to induce labor even though the babies would be premature. The twins were born on December 21, 2023 and were sent to the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. Ethan spent 11 days in the NICU and Katalina spent 24 days there.  

“The NICU experience was amazing. Everyone was always so kind. It’s such a difficult job but they always remained friendly and helpful. There’s a lot to learn in caring for a preemie. They teach you so much,” Jessica said.

Now, Jessica, Ethan Lorenzo, and Katalina are all doing well.

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The Coxes’ Story: Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital Helps Couple Manage Son’s Epilepsy

Adam and Ali Cox are grateful for the expertise of doctors in the Pediatric Neurology department at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network. Doctors at the hospital diagnosed their son Christopher with epilepsy and helped the family to manage this serious condition.

Christopher had his first seizure at age one, but others followed and got progressively worse until Drs. Philip Overby and Steven Wolf stepped in. After Christopher’s first seizure, doctors prepared the Coxes by giving them the training and strategies they needed to help Christopher if, and when, a second seizure came. Through vigilance, medication and education, 4-year-old Christopher’s epilepsy is under control. The Coxes are now dedicated to helping educate families like themselves- parents of the more than 470,000 children under the age of 14 in the United States who have Epilepsy.

“To the Pediatric Neurology Department at Maria Fareri – THANK YOU!! You never know when someone may need your help. Children with Epilepsy are some of the most vulnerable, and how wonderful it is to know, especially as a parent of a child with Epilepsy, that there are people who are ready, willing, and able to help. If you are in a position to provide a donation, I could not think of a better cause,” said Adam Cox.

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Chloe and Contessa Gee

Chloe and Contessa’s Story: Life-Saving Heart Surgery for Yonkers Twins

Chloe and Contessa Gee of Yonkers underwent heart surgery in July of 2020 when they were two months old. Their mother, Saleena Gee, was just 23 weeks pregnant when she gave birth to the twin girls at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital.

Weighing barely a pound, they were rushed to the Isaac and Naomi Kaplan Family Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (RNICU), where it was discovered that both had small holes in their hearts. Following surgery to close the holes using cardiac catheterization, the girls began thriving and went home two months later.

Saleena thanked the doctors and nurses for giving her daughters, now two, the chance to grow up.  She said with speech and occupational therapy, the girls are now happy and healthy toddlers.

“I feel really blessed that Chloe and Contessa received world-class care at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital,” she says. “Our care team supported us through every hurdle and the girls are thriving today.”

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Kaylee’s Story: Newburgh Family Happy with Treatment of Three-Year-Old Daughter at MidHudson Regional Hospital

Megan Mata of Newburgh and her husband Gerardo were concerned when their three-and-a-half-year-old daughter Kaylee was having difficulty breathing. They tried saline treatments with a nebulizer, but when Kaylee’s breathing continued to get worse, they took her to the Maria Fareri Children’s Services at MidHudson Regional Hospital.

“I was super impressed,” said Megan, a second-grade teacher in Newburgh schools. “They took her back immediately and were very attentive.” Megan said that doctors recognized that Kaylee was having an asthmatic reaction, and even though she had never had asthma, the shortness of breath was triggered by seasonal allergies. She said Kaylee was admitted and received treatments every two hours.

“We got the best care, honestly. The triage nurse and the respiratory therapist were amazing with Kaylee,’’ said Megan. “Kaylee even asked ‘Can we go back because that place is epic!’ ” 

Now when Kaylee has a coughing episode, Megan and her husband, know just what to do. “The education aspect was really important,’’ Megan said. She said her family will definitely come back to Maria Fareri Children’s Services at MidHudson Regional Hospital again if Kaylee or her new baby brother Jason are ill.

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Sophia’s Story: Eight-Year-Old Sophia Thriving after Heart Surgery

For 8-year-old Sophia Pinto, the skill of pediatric surgeons at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital made it possible for her to live a full and active life and be the bubbly and happy child she is today.

A third-grader at Matthew Patterson Elementary School in Carmel, Sophia loves to draw, sing, and play with her baby dolls, says mom Christina. But, she added, “It has been some journey.”

Sophia’s journey started before she was born when 16 weeks into her mother’s pregnancy doctors discovered that her heart was not developing properly. Because the right side of her heart was malformed, Sophia had to overcome some serious challenges that began with open heart surgery when she was just one-week old. Another surgery followed at three months old, and a third surgery in 2017 when Sophia was three and a half years old.

 “We really didn’t expect her to survive, said Christina. “Since her third surgery, a new child has emerged. It’s truly a miracle.”

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Domenick’s Story: Infant Gets Expert Care for COVID-19 Close to Home in Poughkeepsie

For 8-month-old Domenick, the pediatric unit at Maria Fareri Children’s Healthcare Services at MidHudson Regional Hospital was a lifesaver. When Domenick contracted COVID-19 in January, and his condition worsened, his mom Adrienne was relieved that he could get advanced care without having to travel to Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Valhalla.

“We went to the ER four times, but when he became dehydrated they had to admit him. The staff there was so attentive to his needs. It was really nice having a pediatric unit close to home and not having to travel.“

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The Russins’ Story: A Westchester couple pays tribute to Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital’s NICU with a charitable fund that honors the memory of their premature twin babies

Andrea Russin was just 26 weeks pregnant with twins, when she unexpectedly gave birth at home to two premature infant boys that weighed just over 1 pound each who were not breathing on their own.

Andrea and her husband, Adam, called 911. Emergency medical technicians revived the babies and then rushed mother and newborns to Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth). The hospital has the only Level IV Regional Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in the Hudson Valley.

Named Jacob and Samuel, the babies’ condition was dire. They were placed on ventilators, while the NICU staff carefully attended to their needs.

Tragically, Jacob passed away one day after his arrival. Samuel continued to fight, and Andrea, now on leave from her job, stayed by his side. In the months that followed, she and Adam became deeply familiar — and impressed — with the NICU’s caring staff.

 “They treated us like we were their family. That’s not something that can be faked or manufactured. The nurses became such a part of our family, and our family story, that we will be forever grateful,” Adam says.

The staff grew just as fond of Andrea and Adam. “They are smart, capable people,” says Edmund F. La Gamma, MD, Chief of the Division of Newborn Medicine at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, noting that the couple pored over a textbook, Preemies: The Essential Guide for Parents of Premature Babies, which a faculty member gave them.

Sue Malfa, RN, nurse manager of the NICU, remembers the Russins’ expressiveness and strong connection to their son. “They would come in and cry but, at Samuel’s bedside, they would smile at his beautiful face or even laugh while talking to him,” she remembers.

Sadly, about three and a half months after his arrival at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, Samuel succumbed to his critical condition. “It was very quiet in the room,” Malfa recalls. “It involved everyone including the nurses and staff.”

The NICU staff’s tireless efforts to save Jacob and Samuel made a profound and lasting impression on the Russins. “The easy thing to do would be to focus on our sons dying. But instead, we focus on the love and the care that they received while they were here for their short lives, and that’s what means so much to us,” Adam says.

“Adam uses the word superheroes to describe the nursing staff and the first word that comes to my mind is angels,” says Andrea. “Because how could a stranger that doesn’t even know you, show such genuine compassion? It really makes the difference in what the experience is like when you’re watching someone else take care of your baby.”

With donations from family, friends, and community members, the couple established The Russin Family Fund, and uses its resources to support Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital’s NICU. They gifted more than 300 copies of Preemies, the textbook that they relied on during their ordeal, to other NICU parents.

The Russins generosity is helping to expand the care provided by the children’s hospital, which currently treats more than 30,000 critically ill infants and children each year from across the Hudson Valley and beyond.

The hospital’s neonatal group also provides on-site neonatologists to eight other local hospitals, to assist babies from the moment of birth. In Dr. La Gamma’s experience, survival outcomes at Maria Fareri Children Hospital’s NICU rival those of any facility worldwide.

“Beyond high-quality medical services, we also value high-quality communication and interaction,” Dr. La Gamma says. “We understand the heavy toll these situations take on families, and we are committed to supporting them as well.”

“I am forever grateful,” says Andrea. “I was so thankful and blessed that I ended up here sort of by accident in an emergency situation, in such an incredible hospital.” Adds Adam: “If you have to be in a children’s hospital, or your family has to be in a children’s hospital, there is no better place on the planet than Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital.”

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Zechia’s Story: Ready to Dance Again

Zechia Mickler has a smile that can light up a room, but severe leg pain sidelined the dancing and music-loving 11-year-old. Her parents remembered the advanced care she received as a toddler at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, NY, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth). At age 1, doctors surgically repaired a life-threatening diaphragmatic hernia that moved her lower abdominal organs into her chest. A decade later, her parents knew WMCHealth could help, again.

They left their Beacon, NY home to drive to the closest emergency room — Maria Fareri Children’s Healthcare Services at MidHudson Regional Hospital in Poughkeepsie, NY. Zechia was admitted, then evaluated by a pediatric orthopedist who diagnosed her with slipped capital femoral epiphysisa (SCFE). The painful hip disorder occurs when the ball at the head of the femur slips off. Emergency surgery was recommended and Zechia transferred seamlessly to Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. A pediatric orthopedic surgeon used screws to fix the SCFE on the problematic hip and did the same, as a preventative measure, to the other hip.

Thanks to the continuity of care at WMCHealth, Zechia left the hospital pain-free, sporting her megawatt smile and ready to dance, again.

“Maria Fareri Children’s Healthcare Services at MidHudson Regional Hospital is a big deal! It’s great to know that you don’t have to go far if your child has an emergency and that WMCHealth is always there to help. They treat all the kids like their own. Please donate to help keep this service in the community for future generations,’’ said Zechia’s mother Donnalee Mickler.

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Camryn’s Story: Camryn Kellam Designated as Hospital Ambassador

Seven year-old Camryn Kellam was cheered by her family and her care team from Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital during a recent ceremony in which she was presented with an official sash designating her as a hospital ambassador for the Go the Distance Virtual Walk

Camryn was born with Sickle Cell Disease and underwent a successful stem cell transplant at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in March 2020. Camryn’s oldest sister, Skylar, 21, was her life-changing donor.  The transplant was successful and now Camryn remains free of the significant symptoms and complications associated with the disease.

Neurosurgical care at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital also is on the horizon for Camryn as physicians also diagnosed Camryn with Moyamoya Disease, a rare and progressive condition of tortuous (twisted) blood vessels at the base of Camryn’s brain. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Moyamoya Disease can lead to aneurysms, strokes and other serious neurological complications. 

Despite these challenges, Camryn is doing well and her spirits are high, which is why Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), chose Camryn to represent the thousands of acutely ill and injured children cared for by Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital each year.

Go the Distance is an annual walk and family day fundraiser for Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. This is the 17th edition of the event that for the safety of participants will be conducted virtually. Families and organizations eager to participate are encouraged to walk a one-mile course of their choosing between now and November 7. 

Those who wish to create a team and support the advanced care mission of Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital should call 914.493.2575 or visit for team-building and fundraising instructions.

Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital is a Leading Research Center

Camryn’s stem cell transplant was conducted as part of a Sickle Cell Disease research trial led by Mitchell Cairo, MD, Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital’s Chief of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Stem Cell Transplantation. Study results reported in a peer-reviewed journal showed 100% subject survival and the elimination of symptoms and complications associated with Sickle Cell Disease.  That research trial is one of several studies on Sickle Cell Disease, pediatric blood disorders and cancers for which Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital serves as the lead research site. 

The Childhood and Adolescent Cancer and Blood Diseases Center at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, is an internationally-recognized, multidisciplinary diagnostic treatment and research center that extends comprehensive care while leading breakthrough research in cancer and blood diseases. Referring physicians or families seeking a consultation with one of the center’s cancer or blood disorder specialists should call 914.493.7997.

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Adam Magwood

Adam’s Story: 12-year-old Bike Accident Victim with Complications Grateful for Care at Maria Fareri

What started as a fun camping trip, ended as every parent’s nightmare for Michelle Magwood, whose 12-year-old son Adam had a serious bicycle accident during the trip. Miles from nowhere, Adam was unresponsive when an ambulance arrived and he was ultimately flown to Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Valhalla.  A team of critical care specialists cared for Adam during his flight to the hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), the region’s only Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center.

In addition to head trauma that required neurosurgical evaluation, Adam had a broken arm when he arrived at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital and was immediately admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Under the care of a team of specialists that included pediatric trauma specialists, Adam’s recovery rapidly progressed, but “something wasn’t right,’’ says Michelle. “His breathing was horrible.”

Tali Lando, MD, a pediatric otolaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat specialist) on the team at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital suspected scarring in Adam’s airway was the cause and received approval from Adam’s parents to perform an emergency tracheostomy.

Within a few days following the procedure, Adam’s airway returned to normal, and within two weeks, the tracheostomy was removed.

“We were able to successfully manage what could have been a very dangerous situation,’’ says Dr. Lando. “His family was very grateful to the entire team.’’

For Adam’s part, he says he was very relieved that the ordeal did not affect his voice, since he loves to act.

“At first, I thought I was going to die,’’ recalls Adam. “Then, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to speak again, but now I’m fine. It was pretty traumatic. But it was such good care at the hospital. It was like a miracle. The hospital was really nice. You could tell they really care.”