Ryder Albarado’s heartwarming tradition

Published 1:09 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2023

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Ryder Albarado celebrated his 10th birthday in a special way that has become a longstanding tradition for his family — by giving back to those who helped him in his rough early days of life. Ryder’s journey into double digits has been marked with memories of the bond he shares with the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) staff who once cared for him.

Ryder, who was born prematurely weighing a mere one pound, 12 ounces and measuring 12 inches, faced a challenging start to life. His mother, Lindsey Albarado, shared their journey from a difficult beginning to a joyful tradition of giving back to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Children’s Hospital of New Orleans.

Lindsey Albarado’s pregnancy took a challenging turn when she experienced a severe Crohn’s Disease flare-up at 20 weeks. At 24 weeks and 6 days, her colon ruptured, necessitating emergency surgery. 

“They removed my entire colon, but they left Ryder,” Lindsey said. “ His vitals were fine during the whole thing, so they felt like they felt comfortable not taking him at that point and letting him stay as long as he could.”

Lindsey recalls her water breaking at 9:15 while she was already 10 centimeters dilated, and she delivered him on Sept. 20, 2013 in the ICU at Touro Infirmary at 9:50.

“I had a normal birth, even though I had just three days prior been cut basically from stem to sternum,” Lindsey said. “I mean, they could never do a C-section. I was already cut, and so there was no time to get me to labor and delivery, so I actually delivered him in the ICU room at Touro.”

Ryder was immediately placed in the NICU, where he would spend the next 145 days. 

Three days after his birth, he required a special ventilator, prompting a transfer to Children’s Hospital. Meanwhile, Lindsey remained at Touro.

“The most striking thing about Ryder’s initial illness was that his mom was also very sick herself. So Ryder was born prematurely and the mom was also pretty seriously ill at the same time,” said Dr. Brian Barkemeyer, Ryder’s doctor while he was in the NICU. “She recovered. Ryder took a longer time because of his prematurity, and he also developed a very common lung problem that premature babies get into. It’s a disease called bronchopulmonary dysplasia or BPD.”

Ryder was on oxygen for 19 months under the care of a pulmonologist. Beyond that, Ryder had retinopathy, which required him to undergo vision surgery while in the NICU.

Today, he enjoys good health, with only occasional visits to a retina specialist

“Sometimes kids that are on the vent have lung issues or eventually have asthma, but we’ve never had any kind of issues like that,” Lindsey said. “I would consider him to be in perfect health. He has no residual effects from the NICU.”

Lindsey and her husband Todd decided to give back to the NICU which had been their lifeline during a trying time. Starting when Ryder was just three years old, they began a tradition of bringing donut king cakes from Take Away Donuts and other treats to the NICU staff and patients on Ryder’s birthday. 

“I have pictures of every year since he was three that we went to visit the NICU,” Lindsey said. “We just bring them treats every year on his birthday.”

Usually, Lindsey contacts Dr. Barkemeyer and a nurse who cared for Ryder in the NICU to ensure they could see them during their visit.

This year, on Sept. 21, the day after Ryder’s 10th birthday, the Albarados were met with overwhelming appreciation from the staff at the hospital.

“When we got there, everybody knew who we were. I was like, what is happening?” Lindsey said. “It really meant a lot. It showed us that the time that we do spend make time in his birthday week to go see them meant a lot to them and it made it really special.”

Dr. Barkemeyer commends the Albarado family for their resilience and dedication to helping others despite their own struggles.

“I think kids have a certain resilience in these situations that shines through sometimes,” said Dr. Barkemeyer. “And I think in this case, Ryder’s resilience is reflected in his family and their willingness to bounce back. To try to make the best of everything for him and their family and spread what they were able to do to other families.”

The Albarado family’s tradition of bringing care packages to the NICU on Ryder’s birthday exemplifies the goodness that can emerge from adversity.

“We feel like we’ve turned a negative and hard time in our life into something positive,” Lindsey said.