Michael Pingicer

At RMHC, our families mean everything to us. Michael Pingicer, a member of one of our past families, reached out to share his story. Read it below:

“Our daughter Hazel was born on December 17, 2014, with a severe life-threatening congenital heart defect called dextro-Transposition of the Great Arteries (d-TGA). She had a cardiac catheter procedure immediately after birth and then open heart surgery when she was five days old. My wife, Kelly, and I moved into a room at the House Within the Hospital when she was three days old and stayed for three weeks.

That winter was full of storms and lots of snow. When Kelly was seven months pregnant with Hazel, we moved to upstate New York for a new job and settled in Seneca Falls, about an hour east of Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong Memorial. In addition to the usual first-time parent nervousness, we were full of trepidation about our situation—we didn’t know many people in the area and we were filled with uncertainty about our baby’s health. By the time we got a room at RMHC, we were numb with worry and so very tired from the childbirth and all the tests they were doing with Hazel. It was such a relief to stay with RMHC, particularly the very special House Within the Hospital.

The common areas immediately helped us to feel at home, with a warm and inviting atmosphere. It was just this incredible safety net where the staff knew what we needed almost before we did. There were so many little things that we hadn’t thought much about—from the laundry room to the internet access to the extra hospital breast pump from the NICU! Having a breast pump at Hazel’s side, as well as one upstairs, saved us a lot of hassle over the weeks we were there. Kelly needed to pump every three hours, 24 hours a day, and wheeling a pump and a bag of supplies back and forth every night gets old pretty quickly.

We weathered the ups and downs of Hazel’s recovery from surgery, as well as the seemingly constant snowfall. We spent many entire days not even leaving the building. We were there for Christmas and New Year’s and had no family nearby. It meant so much that the front desk staff, especially Jack, was so kind to offer us small moments of normalcy—of simple conversation and compassion—and to give us space when we were too overwhelmed for even that. When I think back to that month, it still strikes me how incredible it was that we could focus on our baby and not worry about all the other cumbersome details of daily life.

Hazel is now almost 20 months old and is doing really well. She is a super-active toddler with all the normal toddler tendencies. We have a cardiology check-up at the Children’s Heart Center each year, and while we made a donation to RMHC following our initial stay, we wanted to do more.

Seeking to promote heart health in our family and give back to this community that has helped us so much, I decided to race in the Syracuse Xterra Triathlon on August 14, 2016, in Green Lakes State Park.