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An Extraordinary Family

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Posted 8/20/2014

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For any couple, the decision to start a family is one of the biggest ones they'll ever make. For Ross and Bridgit Pollpeter, the decision carried even more weight. Bridgit is a patient at The Nebraska Medical Center Diabetes Center. Her type-one diabetes meant a high-risk pregnancy was very likely. It was not something she and Ross could take on by themselves. "We started by seeing the endocrinologist," Bridgit says. "And they said, 'if anyone can do this, we think you can.' That started us on a round of seeing all sorts of specialists to make sure my health was good going in." They saw medical center cardiologists, gastroenterologists, nephrologists, obstetricians and endocrinologists. And that was just at the pre-pregnancy phase. "Who did we not see?" Bridgit says with a laugh. After a number of clinic visits and tests, doctors gave Ross and Bridgit the green light. The good news came about a month later. When it came time to read the pregnancy test, they needed some help. Both Ross and Bridgit also happen to be blind. "We took a picture of the test and emailed it to my sister," Bridgit remembers. "And then she texted us back and said, 'Congratulations! You're pregnant," Ross says. Their hugs and happiness were followed by more doctors' appointments. Bridgit saw four obstetricians who specialize in high-risk pregnancies. She also had to test her blood sugar more frequently than before, as many as 15 times a day. The medical professionals who cared for Bridgit and her unborn baby say her attitude was inspiring. "She has a 'can-do' attitude and does not consider herself disabled in the least," says Beth Pfeffer, director of diabetes services at The Nebraska Medical Center. "It is such a joy to work with such a motivated couple. It makes what we do very worthwhile and rewarding." A week before she was due, Bridgit went into labor. "The baby was showing signs of fetal distress, the doctors didn't think he or I could handle a long labor," Bridgit recalls. Baby Declan was delivered by c-section a short time later. "It was expected because of my diabetes, that he might have low blood sugar," Bridgit said. There were other complications as well. Declan went to The Nebraska Medical Center's Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU). "On the second or third day, they had to put him on a ventilator," says Ross. "It was rough." For the next six weeks, the Pollpeters essentially lived in the NICU while nurses and neonatologists helped Declan find his strength. When it was time to come home with a healthy baby, they say they did not spend a lot time worrying about what everyone thinks they would worry about: the fact that neither parent can see. "As with everything that I've experienced since becoming visually impaired, there's usually a solution," Bridgit says. "You just have to figure it out. It's usually not terribly difficult." Ross says many parents change diapers or do late night feedings without turning the lights on. In that way, their situation isn't that much different. "Parents may not realize it, but a lot things they do with their child, they could do non-visually," Ross says. "It just becomes second nature." Ross adds that while it may be hard for other to imagine how they manage, it's how they live every day. "We are the experts in our own blindness," he says. With health issues hopefully behind them, Ross and Bridgit look forward to seeing their son grow up in the way that only they can. "We always say a blind parent can't be a lazy parent," she says. "When they're mobile, we'll have to be right with him. I can't just look over."