Guest writer: Britney Schexnayder, mother of a CHNOLA patient

Dear friend,

I hope this letter finds you healthy and happy this holiday season.

It’s hard to believe that while some of us are spreading cheer and good wishes, others are in desperate need of encouragement and hope. This is where our family was one year ago as our newborn baby, River, was fighting for his life at Children’s Hospital.

river christmasRiver was born last December with Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN), which meant his lungs were not working well, and his brain and organs weren’t getting enough oxygen. He was immediately transferred to the Children’s Hospital NICU. River was baptized and placed on ECMO, a heart and lung bypass machine.


I was terrified because this was River’s last chance at life. Thankfully, he improved every day. He eventually came off all machines and began to breathe and eat on his own. After 34 days in the NICU, we were able to bring our baby boy home!

River is now a whopping 25 pounds, has no developmental delays and is walking all over the place. He is a silly, fun-loving little boy. He is always making everyone laugh, and he puts a smile on anyone’s face that he meets. River is truly a miracle baby, and Children’s Hospital is truly a miracle hospital.


If it were not for the amazing nurses and doctors who treated and cared for my son as their own, he would not be here today.

Spending the holidays in the hospital is not ideal, and it’s not what any parent ever imagines they will have to go through. But to be there with my son – to see him get better and better every day, and to know that the time to return home with him in our arms was getting closer – was the best present of all!

The holidays are the perfect time of year to reflect on what we are most thankful for. For us, it’s the doctors and nurses in the Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) who helped save River.

Thanks to Children’s Hospital, we will get to enjoy this holiday season at home! We are forever grateful for the gift of life Children’s Hospital has given our family. And we are grateful for generous supporters like you who share your hope, joy and love with families like ours in their time of need.

I can’t begin to describe how a small word of encouragement can truly mean so much, and how small acts of kindness will never be forgotten.

Thank you for helping Light Up The Season.

With love and gratitude,

Britney Schexnayder

River’s mother

river 2


During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season – Children’s Hospital never stops. As you read this post, children like River will be receiving the critical care they need, and our dedicated caregivers will be working to heal them.

Help light up their season at


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