Sondra Rae’s Story: A High-Risk Pregnancy and Unforgettable NICU Experience

Sondra Rae and her son Leo in the AdventHealth NICU
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Sondra Rae, a popular morning radio DJ known as “Radio Rae” by her listeners on XL 106.7, knew something didn’t feel quite right at the 33-week mark of her pregnancy with twins.

After checking in to the obstetrics triage at AdventHealth for Women in Orlando, the decision was made to have an emergency C-section. The twins, Siena and Leonardo, were rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at AdventHealth for Children.

Watch Rae share her family’s emotional journey, from holding their twins for the first time to finally going home happy and healthy as a family of four.

Sondra Rae’s story of hope was hard-won, and her pregnancy and delivery wasn’t easy. But she made it through with the support of her wife and the team efforts of caring doctors and nurses at both AdventHealth for Women and AdventHealth for Children.

Rae’s High-Risk Pregnancy

Early on in her pregnancy, Rae was told that she would have a high-risk pregnancy. At 22 weeks, her high-risk pregnancy team worked to ensure the babies would not come early. “The survival rate with delivering babies around 22 weeks is very, very low. It was terrifying to hear that,” she says.

Rae remembers counting down the days and trying to hold onto hope with every passing milestone. “The fact that I could have an unsuccessful pregnancy was always on my mind,” she recalls.

Rae went into labor prematurely after just 33 weeks. After nurses couldn’t stop her contractions, Rae prepared for a C-section, nervously. “One of the nurses hugged me the whole time, which meant the world to me because I was scared,” she says.

Her daughter Siena was born first, followed by her son Leonardo, who was stuck underneath Rae’s ribs. The twins each weighed only three pounds.

Sondra, Missy and Leo at AdventHealth for Children's NICU.

The NICU: An Overwhelming, Yet Unforgettable Experience

Immediately following Rae’s emergency C-section, her babies were transferred to the AdventHealth for Children Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where they stayed for two weeks before going home.

Rae recalls that being in the NICU was both nerve-wracking and unforgettable. “Walking through the doors of the NICU is something that I will never forget, it was so overwhelming” she says.

“All you hear are beeps, buzzes and alarms going off — it was so nerve-wracking — but I knew that our babies were in good hands and that I could see them for the first time.”

When the nurse asked Rae if she wanted to hold them, Sondra remembers feeling nervous. “I remember feeling so nervous, they were around 3 pounds. They were so tiny and small and beautiful.”

“I remember finally holding them, saying ‘they’ve made it, we’re going to be just fine,’” she recalls.

While being a NICU parent is challenging and rewarding, it can also be a painful and heart-wrenching experience — one that you’ll always remember. Rae says that being a NICU parent has had a huge impact on her life.

“You will always think back on those days when your babies were there in the NICU and you remember them fighting, and you never want them to have to go through that ever again,” Sondra says.

Siena and Leonardo are now healthy and well and growing every day. “Today, the babies are so happy, and they laugh constantly,” Rae says, smiling.

“I feel so blessed and so lucky to have the team that we had,” Rae says. “It was overall the best day of my life and I will never forget it.”

Trusted Care From Day One

“Once I found out that I was pregnant, I just knew for a fact that AdventHealth was where I wanted to go,” Rae says.

Throughout her pregnancy, Rae worked closely with AdventHealth perinatologist Rachel Humphrey, MD, who specializes in high-risk pregnancy. “Dr. Humphrey — I absolutely adore her so much,” Rae says.

Rae is grateful for each person who walked with her on the long journey of her pregnancy. “AdventHealth literally went above and beyond — from the day I found out I was pregnant to every single day in the NICU,” Rae recalls.

One Year Later, the Twins Surprise Their NICU Nurses

Siena and Leonardo celebrated their first birthday in September 2019, and the twins had a big day. Before the party, though, the little family held one very special celebration.

“The first thing we really wanted to do was go back to AdventHealth for Children to see the kids’ NICU nurses,” Rae writes on her blog.

“The nurses were SO excited to see them on their birthday,” she adds, writing that her twins’ NICU team celebrated with birthday balloons, party hats and presents. “We are SO thankful for our AdventHealth family.”

The twins surprised their former team at the NICU, and the babies smiled and gurgled in the arms of Dr. Humphrey and NICU nurse Donalyn.

“Donalyn will always have a special place in our hearts!” she notes in the video of their NICU reunion. “We can’t thank Dr. Humphrey enough. She saved my pregnancy!” she adds.

Missy and Leo in the NICU.

We’re Here for You, From Pregnancy to Delivery and Beyond

For NICU parents like Sondra Rae, we understand how scary, emotional and overwhelming it can be to put your newborn's life in someone else's hands.

Throughout her pregnancy and delivery, Sondra Rae had the support of the compassionate teams at AdventHealth for Children and AdventHealth for Women. She didn’t have to go it alone with a high-risk pregnancy, and neither do you.

We are dedicated to caring for families like Sondra’s and yours, and are honored that U.S. News & World Report has recognized AdventHealth for Children as a Best Children’s Hospital for newborn care, and the best in Florida for neonatology.

Whether you’ve just found out you’re pregnant, need support in navigating a high-risk pregnancy our teams are here to help you, each step of the way.

We’d be honored to help you and your family bring a new little one into the world. You can count on our compassionate teams to provide award-winning care for mom, baby and the whole family. Learn more about AdventHealth for Children and AdventHealth for Women.

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