“NewYork-Presbyterian Gave Me the Opportunity to Live Life to the Fullest.”

Gabriella Fletcher spent the first three months of her life in the neonatal ICU at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. As she prepares to run the New York City Marathon for the first time, she shares in her own words why, 29 years later, she’s honoring the doctors and nurses that have treated her “like family from Day One.”

I was born on December 30, 1994 — two and a half months early and weighing less than three pounds. When my mom’s water broke that morning, she first went to what is now NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester, but doctors rushed her to NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, where there was a neonatal ICU that could handle the most complex cases. When I was born, my skin was almost translucent, and my organs were underdeveloped. During my first few weeks in the NICU, I remained on oxygen and connected to monitors, fighting to stay alive.

In the NICU, doctors discovered what appeared to be a little scratch near my eye – it turned out to be a rapidly growing tumor on the optic nerve behind my left eye. I would’ve permanently lost vision on that side if not for Dr. Martin Leib and rest of the team of specialists.

I was finally healthy enough to go home after three months in the NICU, but my childhood was filled with endless follow-up visits. I grew to know NewYork-Presbyterian well. My parents and I had been treated like family there from Day One. The doctors viewed me not only as a patient, but as one of their own. Along with my family, my care team believed in me even before I understood what it meant to believe in oneself. Now, nearly 29 years later, I still see a few of my doctors — and the visits feel equivalent to seeing an old friend. They always end with a big hug. 

My experiences at NewYork-Presbyterian inspired me to give back to the place that means the world to me. That’s why I’m running the 2023 New York City Marathon as a member of Team NYP. The money I’m raising will go to NewYork-Presbyterian Alexandra Cohen Hospital for Women and Newborns. I hope it helps show parents whose babies are currently in the NICU that one day, their tiny babies could also grow up to run a marathon.

I was never a runner and never really had aspirations of running a marathon. But in high school and college, I started running to stay in shape. As I increased my distances, I began to think that maybe one day I could run a marathon. But I always wanted to run for a cause: I wanted my first marathon to be in New York and I wanted it to be for NewYork-Presbyterian.

I’ve had so many care team members over the years, and I started sending some of them notes ahead of the race letting them know how they’ve made such an impact on my life. I want them to know that it’s because of people like them that I’m lining up on November 5. NewYork-Presbyterian gave me the opportunity to live life to the fullest, and it’s an honor to give back and represent Team NYP.

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