NICU graduate reunites with care team 

Last fall, 6-year-old Mallory and her mother, Joanna, returned to California Hospital to visit the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and the care team that helped Mallory fight for her life for five and a half weeks as a preterm baby. Mallory was able to reunite with Tony Marcelli, NICU Director, and her primary nurses, Glenda and Alicia. 

“California Hospital is my daughter’s first home,” says Joanna, who gave birth to Mallory at 32 weeks due to a partial placenta abruption. “It is both the place where I spent the most difficult season of my life and a place of immense growth and development for both Mallory and myself.” 

NICU Director Tony Marcelli, MSN, RN, Glenda Minjares, RN, Mallory and Joanna Nagata standing in from of the main entrance to California Hospital“I am grateful to Mallory’s nurses who collaborated and communicated with me throughout the whole process, offering education and support and encouragement for her entire stay,” Joanna says. “They were calm and reassuring during a time when my life felt frighteningly out of control.” 

Mallory, who celebrated her sixth birthday in November, loves to play pretend “NICU” with her younger brother, Tad — who was also born premature. She also enjoys ballet, gymnastics and theater. 

Joanna offers her advice to other parents going through this journey. “I want to give them a hug. Gosh, it is so hard. There’s no way around that. What you can’t see when you’re in it is that, eventually, it does end.” 

  • Ask for a primary care team during an extended NICU stay. “It made a huge difference to get to know the people who would be caring for my baby—and for them to be able to know us.”
  • Take lots of pictures and videos. “I treasure those, even though some are painful to look at,” she adds.  
  • On the home front, take loved ones’ offers to help. “It’s really hard to live your life outside of the NICU, particularly if you have other children. If someone offers to pick up your kid or bring dinner, say yes!”  

Although Mallory was born years before the new patient tower is set to open, Joanna knows how impactful it will be for the community. “I feel a sense of relief when I read about the plans to make it comfortable for mothers to stay with their babies. That will help everyone involved, and that positive effect will have ripples that never end. It’s a big deal.” 

The new patient tower opening this year will have two floors dedicated to reimagined mother-baby care including private NICU rooms, 26 private postpartum rooms, three state-of-the-art surgery suites and a specially designed water birthing suite, one of only a few in Los Angeles.

Donate to the Your City, Your Hospital campaign to ensure California Hospital Medical Center continues to meet the ongoing needs of the community we serve today and every day. 

“I am forever grateful to the care teams who cared for Mallory and myself,” Joanna adds. “They were there for me during an extremely difficult time and showed deep compassion, coupled with excellent skill."


Photo 1: NICU Director Tony Marcelli, RN, Glenda Minjares, RN, along with Mallory and her mom Joanna
Photo 2: Mallory just three days old in the NICU at California Hospital Medical Center


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