Born at 1 ¾ pound, preemie spent 109 days in NICU

Share this story now

Tiya Thompson had barely finished her second trimester when her daughter was born three months ahead of schedule at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center.

“She was immediately trying to breathe on her own,” Tiya says of her 1-pound, 11-ounce preemie, Rhea, whose lungs and other organs had not yet fully formed. “She’s always been a fighter.”

Born in November 2023, Rhea would need 109 days of round-the-clock care in Methodist Mansfield’s level III NICU, where her every breath and heartbeat were monitored by a staff well-versed in treating tiny patients just like her.

Now home in her pink and green nursery in Cedar Hill, Rhea’s development has just about caught up to that of infants born around her due date in March. For that, Tiya credits the NICU nurses and physicians like Bhavisha Bhakta Nunez, DO, OB-GYN on the medical staff at Methodist Mansfield.

“I love them. Every baby I give birth to will have to be through Methodist Mansfield,” Tiya says. “Not any other place.”

A woman sits on a sofa and entertains a baby girl with a toy. The woman is smiling. Beside her, a man looks happily at the baby.


On the day Rhea Jaylani Thompson decided to enter the world, her parents hadn’t set up her nursery yet, and her mom was just becoming a little uncomfortable with her growing belly.

But Rhea — whose first name means “victory” — came anyway, whether her parents were ready or not. And the labor and delivery team at Methodist Mansfield was ready.

“Delivery at 25 weeks happens in less than 1 percent of pregnancies,” says Dr. Bhakta, who has been Tiya’s OB-GYN for several years.  “Thankfully, we have the resources at Methodist Mansfield, as well as a collaborative team structure.”

And while Rhea’s organs were not fully developed, Tiya was already dilated 4 centimeters. The baby was going to be born.

In the image on the left, a woman laughs as she holds a baby girl. A man sitting beside her touches the baby with his finger. In the image on the right, the baby girl gazes into the camera.


The pregnancy had been normal until the week of Thanksgiving, when severe abdominal pain brought Tiya to the emergency department.

The premature birth was terrifying for Tiya and her husband, Sharif, who had many questions for the staff.

During their first visit with the hospital’s NICU neonatologist, he detailed the precarious path their baby girl had in front of her. The couple appreciated his unvarnished honesty and the staff’s willingness to hear out all their “Google questions.”

“That really helped my nerves,” Tiya says. “They never acted like I was asking dumb questions.”

Days after Rhea’s birth, Tiya went home and, a few weeks later, back to her job as a high school basketball coach. After work, she would visit the NICU, where she sometimes stayed past midnight, getting to know the nurses and medical staff quite well.

“They were there when I was crying, when I was happy, when I was sad,” she says. “We weren’t strangers.”

Sitting on a sofa, a man, woman and baby girl look at a book together. The book's cover reads "Brown Sugar Baby."


Dr. Bhakta says embracing patients with compassionate, quality healthcare is all in a day’s work at Methodist Mansfield.

“We care for our patients, and we care for each other,” she says. “The family had support from the staff and from each other, and they got to take their beautiful baby girl home.”

It’s a feeling of family that Sharif has known for years, starting with his days playing sports in high school.

“When I was in high school and got concussions playing sports, this is where I’d come,” he says. “They welcomed us then with open arms — just as they did Rhea.”