Mom to Audrina Kay Duke 

  Born on April 21 2011 Earned her Wings May 4, 2011

  Selma, North Carolina

My soon to be husband and I were so happy when we found out we were expecting a little bundle of joy! Unexpected.. VERY but that didn’t make us any less excited to become parents. We were so excited when we finally found out that our little bean was a very healthy baby girl! Words cannot express how you feel when they type out those three little words on a monitor “It’s a GIRL!” We right away started to buy everything in pink and purples! Our whole world unexpectedly changed just a few weeks later. I had changed doctor in the middle of my pregnancy.


And with my new doctor I was given a complete check up. We had a long day the doctor and we had to wait all day to get an ultrasound. I didn’t mind the wait because I loved seeing my little girl on the monitors! This time. It was different. The ultrasound technician acted a little funny. Since it was the end of the day our doctor did not really say much to us..just that I had some extra fluid and that she wanted to send us to another doctor that had 4D imaging. We didn’t really think much of it..we thought if there was something to worry about that they would have told us that day. Five days had passed and we showed up at our appointment that our doctor had scheduled for us. When knew something was wrong when they kept taking pictures over and over of the same area. Everyone was quiet. It was just a very surreal feeling. After an HOUR long ultrasound another new doctor entered the room. He immediately explained that our Sweet Audrina had fluid around her lungs and they didn’t know why.


He wanted to perform a number of tests including an Amniocentesis, and put me into a hospital with a level four NICU just in case it sent me into labor. I was beyond terrified, this was our first baby and I just couldn’t imagine that anything would have ever went wrong. I did everything right, changed my diet, took those disgusting pre-natal vitamins. Everything. When we arrived at the hospital I was consulted about trying steroid shots to help Audrina’s lungs develop. I immediately agreed, I didn’t care what they had to do to long as it would help her!


Later that day..the doctor from the earlier ultrasound stopped by to go over what was happening. He informed us that he suspected that our daughter had contracted Non-Immune Hydrops. I had never even heard of this..and I took four years of health science classes in high school. I knew it had to be something terrible..and indeed it was. He explained what Hydrops was and the chances of our baby making it much longer in-utero was slim if the fluid increased. We were informed that we would need bi-weekly ultrasounds to keep an eye on the fluid.


We went home the next day, brokenhearted..but somewhat optimistic. I wasn’t going to let ANYONE tell me my baby couldn’t make it..I was so determined that she would. For a few weeks I thought that I was right..her fluid was consistent it wasn’t spreading and it wasn’t increasing in volume. With every  ultrasound my heart filled with more and more hope. My heart was shattered just 7 weeks later at our 36 week check up. The fluid had her heart and abdomen. We were rushed once again to UNC hospital. I knew they were the very best and I had faith that they could still save my precious Audrina. As soon as we arrived there was an OR waiting for us..they drained the fluid from her lungs in-utero. I couldn’t believe it..I didn’t even know they could do procedures like that! They also drained over two liters of excess amniotic fluid from me so that I wouldn’t be so uncomfortable because at this point we were still shooting for a natural birth.


I was in labor for over 12 hours.. nothing worked to speed up the process. Audrina’s heart rate started to slow and our amazing doctor rushed in and told us that we needed an emergency c-section. C-SECTION? I really didn’t want it..but I knew it was best for her so I agreed..but only under one condition. That they kept me awake during it..If it was possibly the only time I would see my little girl alive in this world I wasn’t going to miss it. Thankfully, they agreed. Audrina Kay Duke made her way into this world on April 21st 2011 at 8:45am. She was 6lbs even..some of that was unfortunately fluid. As soon as she was born they lifted her over the sheet and her eyes were WIDE OPEN and she looked right and her daddy. Everyone in the delivery room ( which was WELL over 10) started to tear up. They were astonished how beautiful she was. The one thing that was missing from her delivery was her cry..I never once heard her cry. It shattered my heart in to  pieces ..because I knew that meant she wasn’t breathing.


They quickly incubated her and whisked her away to the NICU. I had complications from the I do not remember much afterwards until I FINALLY had the chance to see her again 12 hours later. As soon as I was able I was strapped into my wheelchair ready to go see my sweet Audrina. I had waited all day- and I surely wasn’t waiting ANY longer. While I was rolling out of my door I was met by Audrina’s NICU physician. My heart sank..I knew he wasn’t coming all the way over to my room to give me good news. He explained that Audrina had NO chance..and that I should just sign a DNR and to go ahead and OK an Autopsy. I nearly fainted..HOW DARE he come up and tell me that. How can someone be so heartless..I thought to myself. I refused to give up on my precious baby and I was pretty pissed that he already had. The first time I saw Audrina sitting in her little incubator..I was in shock.


My little angel had so many tubes and machines hooked up to her that I could barely even see her beautiful face. I just sat with her..and told her how much her Mommy and Daddy loved her and that she needed to be brave and strong. I guess she was listening because she started to improve..just a little bit. It was enough though, for them to determine that she did have a chance. They decided to put Audrina on ECMO…which is pretty much a Heart and Lung bypass machine. Once again my sweet baby was whisked away from me.. I went back to my room..and prayed. I begged god to save Audrina. A few hours later a very sweet nurse came up to our room with tears in her eyes..and told us that Audrina was placed successfully on ECMO and that a new PICU doctor would be coming up in the morning to talk to us about everything. At this point we still didn’t know much about ECMO. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep that night.


All I could envision was Audrina’s ride home from the hospital, her first Halloween costume..and even her first birthday party. Finally, morning  came and the doctor busted in the room. I could tell he was excited.. He explained to us how well Audrina was doing how amazed he was by her. He seemed to care about Audrina almost as much as we did. He took us down to visit Audrina..but explained to us that we really could touch her because of how the ECMO is placed. (It was pretty much an entire room of machines hooked into her was AWFUL to see) I will never forget seeing my baby girl pink and full of life. She was sleeping and she looked so peaceful. I put my finger in her tiny like palm and she grabbed it..I couldn’t believe it! I felt in my heart that my beautiful little girl was going to make it. For twelve days..we went and visit Audrina for just a few minutes at a time. Her PICU room was full of we couldn’t really sit by her side for long periods of time. I hated it..but I knew if she was going to make it..I had to sacrifice spending time with her. Audrina was doing amazing..she improved so much that they decided to take her off of ECMO the morning of May 3rd. I was so happy..everyone had high hopes for Audrina. We thought that she was going to make it! We knew we had a long road ahead of us..but we didn’t care..we just wanted our baby girl to come home some day.


Once Audrina was completely off of ECMO she did wonderful.. she was stable and working great with little assistance. This, however, changed drastically 12 hours later. They called us in at 7pm that night.. I knew it wasn’t good, I could feel it in my gut. When we arrived they informed us that they had everything under control at that point..but that it was a good idea for us to stay the night just to be on the safe side. I sat with Audrina for hours.. praying and loving on her.


I finally went to our little makeshift room they setup for us at about 1am. At 4am they were knocking on the door asking us to come to Audrina’s room..that they needed to speak with us. I knew it wasn’t good..I knew Audrina wouldn’t be here much longer..I just knew that this was the end of all of our hopes for our Sweet Audrina’s health. When we entered the room and I saw my baby girl so swollen I knew..I had to let her go. Audrina’s amazing doctors and nurses explained to us..that her kidneys had completely stopped functioning and that her heart rate was drastically decreasing.


I made the decision then and there stop all of their efforts for Audrina. I could feel it in my heart that my baby girl was suffering. I didn’t want to be selfish and keep her in this world any longer than her body would allow her to be. This day was full of first..It was the first time I ever held my Audrina. I rocked her and sang sweetly to her..I explained how much we loved her..and that it was O.K to leave us and go to heaven. I think she knew I needed time with her.. I held her for four hours straight..Our families arrived.. they had the chance to love on our sweet girl, like they had all longed to do for days now. After everyone said their hello’s and goodbye’s.. we held our daughter for the last time. It is so unimaginable hard.. to make the decision we had to make for her..but I knew we were right. Audrina passed on May 4th at 1:35pm.. in her daddy’s arm. I will never forget seeing her beautiful face without any of those ugly tubes. She looked to beautiful..I will never forget how sweet she looked. I could feel my heart, I could feel her soul leaving this world. I knew it was over.. all the dream I had for her were crushed. Audrina’s father and I have now dedicated our lives to making funding and awareness for Hydrops possible.  Next to no one hears of this disease until their child is diagnosed with it. There are many causes.. Audrina’s was later determined to because by heart defects. We miss and love Audrina so much..but we know she is in heaven with her illness free body and healthy heart!


You can contact Ashley at


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