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Early arrival creates problems

The doctors told the Vilardos baby Joseph had an 80-85 percent chance of survival and they could expect him to be in the NICU for the next 12-14 weeks.

The Vilardos were offered housing through the Ronald McDonald program, but declined to help keep a sense of normal life for their daughter Ella.

Alicia couldn't drive herself for the first two weeks so family stepped in and drove Alicia and Ella back and forth while Joseph was at work. Once Alicia could drive herself, family helped out by watching Ella at home.

"We always gave Ella the option, to go or stay at home," Alicia said. "Ella couldn't go into see the baby, she could only look through the glass. She got tired of the long ride. After a while, Ella would say she didn't want to go."

Through the end of winter the Vilardos continued the 90-minute commute to Burlington. They developed close relationships with the three nurses who took care of baby Joseph. The hospital assigns the same nurses to the patients. The Vilardos said this helped with keeping tabs on the baby's condition and any changes that had happened between visits.

Baby Joseph continued to have good days and bad days, he was monitored for any changes in vital signs, and infection. He also had a few surgeries.

"We are thankful for all the donations we received," the Alicia said.

They received gas cards from an anonymous donator, which helped offset the cost of their long commute. Alicia's fellow teachers at Ticonderoga Central School set up a sick day bank where they pooled their sick days for Alicia to use so she could be with her children. The Rainbow Nursery school, owned by Marge Cross, waived Ella's tuition. The Ticonderoga Teachers Association set up a donation bank to assist the family.

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