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Wisdom and Strength: A Mother’s Journey through the Fetal Health Center and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Meet Wisdom and Aisha


Aisha holds baby Wisdom. They are outdoors.
Mom Aisha and Wisdom

When Aisha Walker’s water broke at 32 weeks, it was just one more twist in her roller-coaster pregnancy with her third son, Wisdom. “We were given this whole list of things to prepare for when he was born — concerns with his legs, his heart, cleft palate and more,” Aisha shared. “But at the time, I just put those lists away and prayed and left it in God’s hands.”

Aisha’s faith, family and incredible care team at the Elizabeth J. Ferrell Fetal Health Center at Children’s Mercy Kansas City carried her through three weeks of painful early labor, an emergency C-section delivery and another three weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with baby Wisdom.

Bridging maternal and fetal medicine


A bridge connects University Health Truman Medical Center to Children's Mercy for patients who need care in our NICU or Fetal Health Center. The bridge features colorful glass panels. A CMKC Transport Team member moves quickly to bring a baby in an isolette from UHTMC to CMKC.
A bridge connects University Health Truman Medical Center to Children's Mercy.

When it became clear that Aisha’s pregnancy would be touch-and-go until the baby arrived, her care team at University Health Truman Medical Center collaborated with the Children’s Mercy Fetal Health Center (FHC) team to transfer Aisha to the FHC until delivery.

To determine whether a mom and baby need the FHC, “we discuss the case with the referring physician and review if the fetus will require our high-level NICU or subspecialty postnatal care, and we determine if the mom meets our delivery criteria,” said obstetrician Raschelle Schowengerdt, MD, Lead Laborist and Medical Director of Maternal/Fetal Transportation for the FHC.

Aisha’s preterm, premature rupture of membranes (PPROM) was causing problems for baby Wisdom, in addition to extremely painful contractions for Aisha. PPROM can lead to a decrease in the volume of the mother's amniotic fluid, which then causes compression of the umbilical cord and results in slowing of the baby’s heart rate, explained Dr. Schowengerdt. So the two hospitals jointly agreed it was time for Aisha to be transferred to Children’s Mercy.

While the FHC accepts patients from many outside hospitals, in Aisha’s case, she didn’t even have to go outside to reach her destination. A “Bridge of Hope” connects the maternity center at University Health Truman Medical Center with the neonatal floor of Children’s Mercy for situations just like these. Aisha remembers being nervous and exhausted as she was wheeled from one hospital to the other, but seeing all the community partners of Children’s Mercy displayed on the walls of the bridge helped her stay grounded. “As soon as I got to Children’s Mercy, I was greeted by two nurses,” Aisha recalled, “and in that moment, something made me feel like everything was going to be OK.”

Surrounded by support

During her time in the FHC, Aisha felt constantly supported by caring nurses, including Tonya Blair, BSN, RN, RNC-OB, a critical care perinatal transport nurse whom Aisha nicknamed “Mama Tonya.” They helped her feel comfortable as she fought for each extra day for Wisdom to grow before he was born.

“Every single nurse I came in contact with was amazing,” Aisha said. “They were very detailed. They monitored both me and Wisdom the whole time and took such good care of us.” Aisha’s husband, Tyrelle, and their two older boys, Princeton (8) and Cairo (3), visited often and were always greeted warmly as well.

“I have to take my hat off to my husband, Tyrelle,” Aisha shared. “He probably still doesn’t realize how much easier he made the entire process. He picked up a lot of my duties and, most importantly, let me rest so I could focus on myself and the baby.”

The Walker Family poses by a lake. The family includes dad Tyrelle, mom Aisha, and children Princeton, Cairo and Walker.
Dad Tyrelle, Mom Aisha, and children Princeton, Cairo and Wisdom.

Dr. Schowengerdt applauded Aisha’s incredible strength during the whole process. “She has such a bright, bubbly personality and handled the ups and downs of a pregnancy requiring care in the FHC with a great attitude.”

Often, moms who are in the care of the FHC struggle with their mental health in addition to any physical challenges they’re experiencing during a complicated pregnancy or delivery. “Being separated from your support system is hard, but our staff is amazing at providing an additional layer of support,” Dr. Schowengerdt shared. “We pride ourselves on treating our patients like family.”

A leap of faith

After about three weeks of careful monitoring, the time came for Wisdom to be born. Aisha’s PPROM caused Wisdom’s heart rate to become unstable, so the FHC team delivered him by C-section at 35 weeks’ gestation. It happened to be February 29th, so Aisha wanted to wait a few more hours to give him a more “normal” birthday, but headstrong Wisdom insisted on arriving on Leap Day!

After his birth, the medical team was happy to discover that the only concern Wisdom had from the original list of potential birth differences was his cleft lip and palate. However, Aisha and Tyrelle were not as surprised. “When we were going through everything, we prayed for discernment and wisdom, and that’s the reason we chose his name to be Wisdom,” Aisha shared. The Walkers felt that by entrusting their baby’s wellbeing to God, they could focus on getting through each day and give him the very best shot at a healthy life.

Tubes and wires...but not for long

Born at a fighting weight of just 4 pounds, 1 ounce, Wisdom needed a few weeks of extra support in the NICU to grow stronger before going home to his big brothers. Doctors wanted to monitor his heart closely to make sure he had good blood flow, and he needed some practice with eating due to his cleft palate.

“Starting out, Wisdom had so many wires and IVs,” Aisha recalled. “But each day, he grew stronger and the doctors would take off some of those wires.” On the day Wisdom’s NICU team said he was ready to go home, Aisha was surprised to find she had mixed feelings. “I know it’s probably strange to say, but I was a little happy and sad. We had built a bond with the NICU team. I would sit for hours talking to the nurses, and it felt like the days were flying by,” she said.

Having a consistent schedule and lots of support helped the Walker family get through the stress of having a baby in the NICU and two older boys at home. When Tyrelle and the boys came to visit, Aisha and Tyrelle explained what was going on with Wisdom, and Princeton and Cairo had a chance to express their emotions and find little ways to help with their baby brother. “Wisdom has great big brothers, and this time in our lives has made our family stronger,” Aisha said.

Miles of smiles ahead



Now three months old, Wisdom is a single-minded, determined little boy. “He knows exactly what he wants!” Aisha laughed. His smile already lights up the room, but in a year or so, Wisdom will be old enough to have his first surgery to repair his cleft lip and palate with plastic surgeon Shao Jiang, MD, Division Director, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. A second surgery will follow when he’s around 18 months old. In the meantime, he wears a special kind of adhesive tape that helps the cleft begin to close naturally.

Bringing smiles to children is also part of the Walker family’s daily work. Tyrelle and Aisha are the co-founders of the Walker Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides hairstyling services and wigs for children in need. “We first started this work in the early 2000s when my mom lost her hair to alopecia, and I began creating wigs for her,” Aisha shared. “That grew into creating customized wigs for children and providing hairstyling and makeup for children who are in foster or adoptive homes, hospitalized, in underserved communities or who have special needs.”

Two hairstylists style the hair of two teenage girls.
Volunteer stylists from the Walker Foundation curl two girls' hair before the Children's Mercy Patient Prom event.

The Walker Foundation was a sponsor of the 2024 Children’s Mercy Patient Prom and provided free hair and makeup services for kids in the hospital who are unable to attend their school dances. Aisha loved coordinating plans with Trista Tate, Manager of Patient and Family Programs, to make the prom experience extra special for patients. “For us to be able to give back to Children’s Mercy was amazing,” Aisha said. “When we see the smiles on their faces, that’s everything. When you do what you love and it’s your purpose, it doesn’t feel like work — that's why we get up and do it every day.”

Words of Wisdom

After everything they’ve been through, Aisha had some words of wisdom for families in a similar situation: “Breathe!” she emphasized. “You’ve got to give yourself time to figure out what’s going on and listen and take things in, but at the same time, know when to put things out when it gets to be too much,” Aisha advised. “And sometimes, you have to do things scared. That’s the only way you can continue to move forward.”

Learn more about the Fetal Health Center, our Level IV NICU and the The Walker Foundation.