Finding a role model in the NICU: A sliding door moment

November 08, 2022 | by Kate Gawlik, RN

Pictured above: Dr. Rajeev Dixit attended the high school graduation of Alyssa Noworul, a patient he took care of 18 years ago. Dr. Dixit has been a role model for Alyssa, seen here with her mom, Adrianne.

The term "sliding door moment" became popular after the release of the movie "Sliding Door," where changes in a woman’s life are depicted based on whether she gets on a train.

On a Thursday morning in May 2004, Rajeev Dixit, M.D., a neonatologist in the Edward Hospital Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU), was on service. He received a call from the Emergency Room that an ambulance brought in a baby born unexpectantly at home.

Dr. Dixit and Angela Stephenson, RN, rushed to the ER and brought the baby to the NICU. All they knew was the baby girl had a faint heartbeat and was cold when she arrived at the hospital.

The chance that Dr. Dixit was the attending neonatologist that day led to life-altering events and a possible career in medicine for the now 18-year-old woman, Alyssa Noworul.

She says, "Dr. Dixit is one of the most important people in my life. He saved my life, so everything I ultimately do is because of what he did. I love visiting him on my birthday and talking with him and his family. He even made time to attend my high school graduation. He's always offered to help me with my journey to medical school. He isn't just some doctor who took care of me 18 years ago, he is my role model."

Beyond expectations

Alyssa spent four weeks in the NICU. Initially intubated with a ventilator for respiratory support and central lines for intravenous nutrition, she progressed slowly from her traumatic birth to a healthy newborn.

Alyssa’s mom, Adrianne, who was 20 at the time, remembers, "A lot of it is a blur for me because I was in complete shock after Alyssa was born. I remember the staff being so nice and answering all the questions we had. Alyssa was born on a Thursday and was not supposed to make it through the weekend. We had her baptized on day three. Eventually, Alyssa began responding to treatment and got better. One day, Alyssa was off oxygen and she wasn’t in her crib when I came in. I was nervous until I realized she was hanging out in rounds with Dr. Dixit and the nurses."

Adrianne describes little Alyssa as her miracle, who is kind, caring, smart and compassionate. "Even as a little one she was a thinker and problem solver. Alyssa is one of the most thoughtful people I have ever met. I am lucky enough to call her my best friend," Adrianne adds.

HD Moms AlyssaDrDixitcrop

Pictured above: Alyssa Noworul spent four weeks in the Edward Hospital NICU after a traumatic and unexpected home delivery. She visited Dr. Rajeev Dixit in the unit every year on her birthday.

Moving forward

Alyssa, a Benet Academy alumna, is now a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Sports interested Alyssa as a high school freshman volleyball player, cheerleader, and track and field team member. When she stopped sports, she joined the Student Government Service Committee, National Honor Society and various clubs, such as current events, politic and Spanish.

At UW-Madison, Alyssa is majoring in psychology and working toward a career in medicine. She says, “Ever since spending time with Dr. Dixit and visiting the NICU, I’ve thought about going into the medical field. Even though I once switched between medical and law school, Dr. Dixit always supported me and was ready to help in any way he could. Because I have such a great role model in the medical field, I decided on medical school.”

As Thanksgiving approaches, the Noworuls cannot help but think about their blessings. Topping the list this year is baby Austin who was born in June and made Alyssa a big sister. Watching Alyssa grow into an independent young woman also brings thanks. And on their list every year is Dr. Dixit, for making a young new mother feel empowered 18 years ago and supporting a former patient through her journey to college.

Dr. Dixit notes, "The universe sometimes presents us with opportunities to interact with certain people. Alyssa is a remarkable young woman and I have been privileged to watch her thrive in every stage of her life."

Some babies are born needing special care. At Edward-Elmhurst Health, we’re fully equipped to care for newborns who require special attention, such as extremely premature infants, infants on ventilators and newborns with congenital conditions.

Edward Hospital provides a Level III NICU—with the capabilities to treat the sickest and most fragile newborns of all gestational ages, including those with a variety of congenital and surgical conditions. Elmhurst Hospital provides a Level IIe Special Care Nursery with extended capabilities to care for low birth weight and premature infants, as well as infants on ventilators, at 30 or more weeks gestation.

Learn more about the NICU and Special Care Nursery at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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