JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – A Tri-Cities family is grateful they didn’t have to travel far to find world-class care for their baby, who tested positive for a genetic condition, as well as heart defects. The Dyes put their trust in Niswonger Children’s Hospital, where they say the staff guided them through every step from pre-registration to navigating the challenges of being a new parent.

Danielle Dye knew her birth experience may be risky after extensive testing found her baby, Graham, had Trisomy 21, the genetic condition known as Down Syndrome. Graham also had two holes in his heart, which needed to be monitored at birth. After he was born, Graham went straight to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where his condition took a scary turn.

“He had to go to a more intensive side of the NICU, and he was there for about four or five days on a CPAP BiPAP machine,” Dye said.

During that time, Graham’s parents didn’t get to talk to him, touch him, or hold him.

“And so we were trying to just take it, honestly, moment by moment,” Dye said. “I’m sure other parents say that, but sometimes you can only take it one hour or one day at a time because you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

After 15 days in the NICU, Graham was ready to go home. Six months later, the holes in his heart have gotten smaller, but his personality has gotten bigger. You can see him as Mr. January in the Niswonger calendar and in other ads that share his story. Looking back, Dye said her experience with the staff at Niswonger was nothing short of amazing.

“If we are still struggling or we found a need that’s unmet for Graham’s care, then we can still come here any time,” she said. “And we have utilized the pediatric ED here, and it’s been phenomenal.”

She said plans to build more private areas for parents of NICU babies will be welcomed in an area where emotions can run high.

“Sometimes, you just need a little space along with the added stress of becoming new parents,” she said. “Dealing with a child with special health care needs as well is another layer of emotions that you weren’t sure you’d have.”

That space would not be possible without donations from the community.

“We are fortunate to have Niswonger here in our region, knowing that we don’t have to travel and I don’t think they realize that,” Dye said. “So just being able to support this incredible venue is every little bit helps, but keeping that here and allowing folks to hear these stories is a game changer. It was for me.”

On March 2 and 3, News Channel 11 will partner with Niswonger Children’s Network for its annual Radiothon to raise money for the region’s only pediatric hospital. You can donate early online by clicking here.