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Light After Darkness

September 26, 2022
Aurora Ro Atchison

Aurora Atchison/ “Baby Ro”

When Sam Atchison tells the story of her daughter, Aurora, also known as Ro, you can hear the love in her voice.

She knows every date, every diagnosis and every doctor’s name as if they were etched on her heart.

But then again, why wouldn’t she? Ro, who is almost 1-year-old, has quite the story of perseverance as a patient at Texas Children’s Hospital.

Atchison Family

“When I was 13 weeks pregnant, we learned that there were significant complications,” Sam said. “The medical team noticed that Ro was missing a nasal bone and had an atrioventricular septal defect (AVSD) and fluid on the trunk of her body. We weren’t even sure if she would make it.”

Unfortunately, that uncertainty never went away.

While in utero, Ro had soft markers for Down syndrome and a noninvasive prenatal testing result with a high probability of the genetic disorder. She also experienced two bouts with hydrops fetalis, a build-up of fluid in the tissues and organs, which is often fatal.

“I went in weekly to monitor fetal heart tones, each time not knowing if she’d have a heartbeat,” Sam said. “Our doctors, my OB/GYN and her maternal fetal medicine team really expected her heart to stop. But week after week, she kept fighting and was delivered at 38 weeks. You can’t spell rollercoaster without Ro.’”

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) team was in the delivery room when Ro was born, and a two-month stay in the NICU began. Ro needed to be under careful watch to make sure her heart was strong and healthy enough before going home. “Leaving your baby at the hospital after giving birth goes against every single maternal instinct there is,” Sam said. “But between my husband and me, we were there every single day. She was never without one of us.” Sam added that Texas Children’s Newborn Center became a home — not a home that you would ever ask for, but a home just the same. “I know we were in the absolute best place to receive the best care,” she said. “Even on my worst days, walking into the doors at Texas Children’s always made me feel better.” After two long months, Ro was reunited at home with her mother; her father, Jared; and her big sisters — Madelyn, 7, and Eleanor, 4.

When she was just 5 months-old, Ro returned to Texas Children's Hospital to undergo an operation to correct her AVSD.

“I like to joke that Ro likes to collect specialists - we’ve seen or are followed by pediatric surgery, ENT, audiology, ophthalmology, cardiology, pulmonary, endocrine, genetics, allergy and immunology, neuro and palliative care,” Sam said. “Right before discharge from her heart surgery, we discovered she had severe pulmonary hypertension - which has responded well with time and medicine - and also gave us an opportunity to add pulmonology to our list.”

The Atchison family is incredibly grateful to the entire team of experts at Texas Children's Hospital who have guided them since Ro’s initial diagnosis, including her maternal fetal medicine specialist, Dr. Joan Mastrobattista, her neonatologist, Dr. Scott Osborne, pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Shaine Morris, and Ro’s pulmonologist, Dr. Nidhy Varghese.

“Aurora’s name means dawn,” Sam said. “I think it’s the perfect name for her, because she has become such a light in our lives after so much darkness.”

Success stories like Baby Ro’s are made possible by the generosity and support of people like you. One of the many ways the community gives to Texas Children’s Newborn Center is through participation in the annual Bad Pants Open Golf tournament. Register for the event or donate online at