This week's "This is Us" was highly anticipated by many parents of premature children after Kate's water broke at 28 weeks gestation. How would the NBC show handle the story of having a premature baby?
Austinite Kelli Kelley was one of those parents. She founded Austin-based Hand to Hold, which helps parents of premature or otherwise medically fragile babies or who have lost such a baby.
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She watched the show last night. "I think they did a good job," she wrote Wednesday morning in a text. "There were minor inconsistencies, but I think it was a 100 times better than past shows about preterm labor/NICU."
Kelley had worried that the show would feature a baby that didn't look premature and that Kate and Toby would be able to hold right away.
Instead, the show was mainly about the family dynamics as they waited for news in the hospital waiting room. The last five minutes of the show, though, showed Kate and Toby in the neonatal intensive care unit watching their son, Jack, in the isolette. He is hooked up to monitors and he does look more than just a small baby. He looks fragile.
This wasn't the "Grey's Anatomy" of 2009, which featured a premature baby delivery story and made Kelley stop watching the show because it got the reality wrong.
"I never watched 'Grey's Anatomy' again," she says. She remembers thinking at the time, "I just can't watch this any more. It just hurt."
Unlike that show, Kelley gives "This is Us" "an A for effort" recognizing it is still a TV show.
A couple of things that stood out to her:
When Kate and Toby walk into the NICU there are a lot of crying babies. Yes, there would be some older babies that do cry, but Kelley says she was glad when the show faded the crying out. "Typically all you hear is the beeps of monitors and the hum of respirators," Kelley wrote.
The biggest issue Kelley had with the show as that "Kate looked too good and was too 'with it.' If she had an emergency C-section, she would be in pain. The drugs they administer to stop labor would have TERRIBLE side effects. She would be a physical and emotional wreck!"
And, where was the nurse? NICUs are full of staff at all times monitoring these babies.
Kelley and the former NICU parents will be watching "This is Us" as this story unfolds.
"From the brief previews of next week, it looks like they are going to dig into some more of the challenges of a NICU stay," she writes.
She is hoping that the show doesn't show Kate and Toby and baby Jack going home soon. In reality, a baby born at 28 weeks doesn't go home until months later.
Even though "This is Us" got last night's episode mostly right and even if it gets future episodes right, Kelley knows that this story will be hard for many in the Hand to Hold community to watch.
"I just hope it's not a trigger," Kelley says.
If parents are watching "This is Us" and it brings up emotions, they can reach out to Hand to Hold, either on the website, handtohold.org, or by calling 855-424-6428.
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