Cassie and Vince Glondo are a devoutly Catholic family with deep roots in Cle Elum. When I first met them, they had three children: Gracie, Dominic, and Gianna. Cassie was also expecting a fourth baby, due November 9, 2017, but as her pregnancy progressed it became clear that the baby would be arriving well before her due date. On July 14th of that year, Cassie was hospitalized at Overlake Hospital in Bellevue, and then was quickly transferred to the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Their baby was only 23 weeks gestation. For the next two weeks, Vince traveled back and forth from Cle Elum so that he could be with Cassie as much as possible while continuing to raise their other children.
Few can imagine what a harrowing experience this was for their family but that didn’t stop their community from rallying around them during their time of need.
“When we had nothing left, our faith and community got us through. It carried us through that time in our lives. People literally were selfless – strangers, acquaintances, friends, and family. It was shocking to find out how many people we had on our side. Our community raised funds that allowed either myself or Vince to stay with Angelo throughout his time in the NICU. We gained a sense of community beyond what we imagined, and the difference it made in Angelo to have us there each day will be seen in him the rest of his life..”
They held onto their family and their faith to comfort them throughout the many decisions that they faced in the following weeks and months. Angelo was born August 1, 2017, at 25 weeks 5 days gestation, weighing 1 lbs 13 ozs, and 12 ¾ inches long.
According to Cassie, “Initially we had a lot of concern that his chance of a normal life was really low. The neonatologist gave us the option of just holding him until his last breath, rather than fighting for him. With our faith on my side, we were his advocate at all times. The scientific data was not comforting but we knew that the Lord had a plan for our son. During this time UW Medical NICU in Seattle literally helped carry the load. The providers there loved and cared for him when we couldn’t be there. They supported us when we were scared, and celebrated the victories. The nurses told us that interactive and involved parents create happier and healthier babies, and we see that in Angelo every day.
After 118 days in the NICU, we were able to take Angelo back to our home in Cle Elum on November 27, 2018. Since then, his growth has been incredible. When he was born he had a feeding tube, ventilator, intravenous medications, blood transfusions, ultrasounds, xrays, eye exams – and the list goes on. We had to pay special attention to all aspects of his development and maintain vigilance about signs of brain bleeds, cerebral palsy, etc.
Today he is nursing, eating solid food, babbling, sitting up, and attempting to crawl. In the coming year, he doesn’t need any special medical attention beyond normal checkups. He doesn’t look like the typical 25 weeker and I know that our faith and love is what made the difference.
This experience has shown me what is truly important in this world. When faced with a situation where the what-ifs were paralyzing and we were broken – what we took from our life and carried with us was very selective. Faith, family, and friends.”
I believe there are times in your life when a situation presents itself to you with the power to change your life. You have two choices at that moment, to stay still as it passes by you or to move forward and embrace the moment. Such a moment presented itself to me when I heard of Cassie and Vince. Preserving memories is my passion, and without a doubt, I knew this particular story needed to be documented. Cassie is a photographer, but there was no way that she could photograph this story at that time in her life. Documenting this story taught me more about the power of faith and the sanctity of human life than I anticipated, and has reinforced my calling as a photographer.
What Cassie and Vince would want people to know about having a baby at 25 weeks:
We’d like people to be more aware of the incredible isolation of having a severely premature baby. It was so hard to explain what we were going through, and I think that is true for most parents of micro-preemies. Thankfully, with enough faith and support, miracles do happen. We are blown away every single day that we see Angelo continue to grow and thrive.
Thank you Cassie and Vince for trusting me to document your story, for letting me in and showing me the power of faith, family, and parenthood.