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Renee Allen, data systems analyst in Quality and Process Improvement, can track her interactions with Children's Hospital Colorado all the way back to the day she was born. Allen, now 36, was born prematurely and weighed only 2 pounds, 3 ounces. She was tiny and her lungs were not yet fully developed.
Renee Allen spent the first months of her life in the NICU of Children's Colorado where she is now an employee.
Allen was transferred to Children's Colorado from the hospital where she was born to receive care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Here, doctors discovered that Allen's ductus arteriosus (a normal fetal artery) did not close on its own.
"It was a constant balancing act to treat me because what was good for the lungs was not good for the heart and vice versa," she said.
All babies are born with a ductus arteriosus but since the opening is not needed after birth, it usually closes by itself after the first few days of life. Small openings do not present a problem, but Allen's was large enough to need surgery to close it. Without the surgery, her heart and lungs would have worked too hard.
Allen was only 17 days old when she had open heart surgery. Children's Colorado's first chief of cardiac surgery, George Pappas, MD, performed a PDA ligation, which required an incision that ran from the front to the back of her left ribcage. She spent two-and-a-half months in the NICU before she was discharged.
Although Allen was too young to remember her hospitalization, her experience left a lifelong impression.
"As a kid, I wanted to be a neonatologist. When I was older, I always gave blood because I had seven blood transfusions at the hospital," Allen said. "I think overall, my experience, if anything, made me stronger."
Allen joined Children's Colorado in 2004 and recently celebrated her 10 year anniversary.
"It has always been a homecoming of sorts [to work here]," Allen said. "If it wasn't for this place, I wouldn't be alive. Everything has come full circle."