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Reliving a child’s ‘miracle’

By Karen Nitkin

THE BALTIMORE SUN- Considering that she was born at 27 weeks, weighing 2 pounds, 5 ounces, Angelina Mussini seemed to do well her first week of life.

But then her health faltered. She could no longer breathe on her own, and her weight dropped to 1 pound, 12 ounces.

Her parents got an emergency baptism for her and were told that even if she lived, she might suffer brain damage from lack of oxygen. Twice, the Bel Air residents were asked if they were ready to give up on the little girl. 

But Angelina’s parents, George and Lea, and the staff at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center continued to fight for Angelina. Doctors and nurses pumped oxygen into her tiny body by hand for 13 hours, and gradually her health improved. On Mother’s Day 2003, after 108 days in the neonatal intensive care unit, Angelina was allowed to go home.

 Today, at 23 pounds, she is smart and energetic, though prone to respiratory infections.

Angelina’s parents and doctors recently got together again, this time to re-enact her remarkable story for the program Amazing Babies on the Discovery Health Channel. The show is scheduled to air this fall. The show was taped last month, with Lea and George Mussini and about 20 doctors and nurses playing themselves. 

“I was really nervous that it was going to be traumatic to relive a traumatic experience,” Lea Mussini said. “At one point it did get that way, especially when we were re-enacting the NICU scenes, but I think my defense mechanisms sort of kicked in. In a way, I think it was sort of therapeutic.”

She first heard about Amazing Babies from a friend and found out in February that her story had been selected as the topic of an episode. Producer Tracylynne Williams said she selected Angelina’s story because it fit the show’s criteria of “something dramatic, miraculous and unusual.” But the thing that pushed her over the edge was a photo of Angelina with a Beanie Baby that looks enormous next to her, she said. 

Typically, four stories appear on each one-hour segment, Williams said. Those few minutes of airtime are distilled from two days of filming.

The production crew started with interviews of George and Lea Mussini in their Bel Air home, along with footage of them taking Angelina for a walk, reading her stories and just living their daily lives. “To me, that was the funnest part of the whole weekend,” Lea Mussini said.

The couple also re-enacted the devastating call from the NICU, when they learned that their week-old baby was not doing well.

The next day, the crew set up in the hospital. It was apparently the first time GBMC had been featured in a national television program, said Michael Schwartzberg, GBMC media manager. “We’re going to have a premiere party when it airs,” he said.

Despite their lack of experience in front of the camera, the doctors and nurses got into the spirit of the shoot right away.