March 8, 2019

A Little Fighter

Susan and Xander Bryant

Susan and Xander Bryant

The UAMS Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is a familiar place for Susan Bryant, R.N.

As a NICU nurse, she sees and cares for babies who entered the world too early and are fighting to survive. However, this familiar scene became an unfamiliar one when it was her own son in one of the isolettes.

Bryant went into labor at 25 weeks, but through bed rest and hospital stays was able to hold off delivery for a while longer. At 34 weeks, baby Xander could not be stopped. “The delivery was uncomplicated,” she said. “At first, they thought he would be able to stay with me, but then he quit breathing. That moment was terrifying.”

Doctors took Xander to the stabilization room and put a tube in him to get medicine to his lungs. They then pulled the tube out, and he went to four liters of oxygen. They also put umbilical and arterial lines in him.

“Working in the NICU, I knew too much,” Bryant said. “We do it all the time, but I lost it when they had to put the lines in.

“There’s a fine line between nurse and mom,” she said. “Nurse-wise, I knew that everything was fine, but it’s different when it’s your child. I had to learn to sit back and be a mom.”

Bryant has been a nurse in the UAMS NICU for two years, but the experience of having her own child in the unit brought home the special needs of these tiny babies and their families.

“I can really relate to the parents now,” she said. “I can tell them that I’ve had a baby there. I understand their fears, worries and concerns.”

The UAMS NICU has 58 private rooms for babies, and parents are welcome to stay with their babies and even spend the night in their room. Bryant didn’t leave Xander for the entire 11 days he was in the NICU.

“I didn’t leave. I couldn’t handle leaving. My husband stayed too.” she said.

Bryant also has a deeper appreciation for the staff she works alongside in the NICU.

While Xander was at UAMS in June 2010, the March of Dimes sent a photographer to take pictures of babies and their families in hopes of finding a poster child for their upcoming Prematurity Awareness campaign in November. Xander was chosen as the campaign’s “poster baby” and was featured in a campaign to let Americans know that “1 in 8 babies is born too soon.”

The campaign included full-page ads in magazines such as Glamour, Allure and American Baby. Xander’s photo was printed on business cards distributed to promote the March of Dimes and its programs and prematurity awareness and prevention. Xander was also featured on electronic billboards in malls across the United States.

“We were ecstatic when we found out he got chosen. We felt truly blessed and honored,” said Bryant. “I always knew the March of Dimes worked with the families here. They answer so many questions and provide so much emotional support.”

The Bryant family has been active with the March of Dimes since Xander’s birth, attending an event at the state capitol on Prematurity Awareness Day in November and participating in the organization’s

March for Babies in Little Rock on April 30. Susan and Xander will be leading “Xander’s Zoomers” as they walk to raise money and awareness of premature births in support of the March of Dimes. Go to to join Xander’s team.

Bryant has always had a passion about working with babies, but now she is working not only to help these babies once they’re born, but also to prevent premature births.

One of Bryant’s older sons was born at 35 weeks and had to spend one day in the NICU. He is now perfectly healthy like Xander. When looking at her two precious sons, Bryant knows how meaningful the work of the March of Dimes is. She also serves on the NICU Family Support Advisory Committee.

Working with the March of Dimes, the Bryant family joins the fight to raise prematurity awareness in the hopes that no other family has to go through the fear of having a premature baby.