What motivated you to take part in this year’s TCS New York City Marathon?
My parents have shared my “early arrival” story so many times that I feel as if I was there. Actually, I was there, and had the best view in the house from inside the womb. But it wasn’t until years later that I learned I was a true medical miracle thanks to the outstanding care of the doctors and nurses at New York-Presbyterian. I am eternally grateful for the impact the NYP medical team has had on my life, and now it’s my turn to show my support and embark on the greatest physical challenge of my life.
Mom’s water broke the morning of December 30, 1994, 29 weeks into her pregnancy. My parents raced to the local hospital, and by 11:30 a.m., my mom was in an ambulance headed to Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. NYP was the closest hospital with a Level III NICU, and the doctors knew I was ready to “get a head start on life” and would need the highest level of critical care.
I was born at 7:30 p.m. on December 30, 11 weeks early and tipping the scales at 1,250 grams. I was so small, my skin was almost transparent, my organs underdeveloped. I nearly fit in my mom's hand—her wedding band was too big to wear as a bracelet.
My early weeks were spent in the NICU on oxygen, connected to monitors and fighting to stay alive. I graduated from the NICU three months later around my original March 1995 due date, when the doctors concluded that I was healthy enough to go home. My parents were a bit hesitant, but my neonatologist said, "Gabriella is ready to go home. Don't be afraid; enjoy her."
My early years were filled with endless follow-up visits. My care team became our family who will forever hold a special place in our hearts. These doctors are leaders in their field and provide care with great compassion. My care team, along with my family, believed in me even before I could understand what it meant to believe in oneself. Nearly 29 years later I still see a few of my doctors—the visits feel equivalent to seeing an old friend and end with a big hug.
Why is philanthropy important to you?
I am forever grateful to New York-Presbyterian for funding research and medicine that saved my life 28 years ago. Thanks to all the "amazing things happening here," babies born as early as 22-23 weeks now have a high chance of survival. It is because of NYP that I have been given the opportunity to live life to the fullest.
It is my honor to give back and line up on November 5 and represent Team NYP. All donations will go directly to the New York-Presbyterian Alexandra Cohen Hospital for Women and Newborns, which is exclusively dedicated to the unique healthcare needs of pregnant women and their newborn babies. Home to leading physicians, surgeons, and specialists, the facility offers a full range of services women and infants may need before, during, and after childbirth, including specialized prenatal care and one of the most advanced neonatal intensive care units in the country.
To NewYork-Presbyterian, "Stay amazing" and to Team NYP, I hope to make you proud!