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‘Every little milestone is such a precious milestone’

5 Min Read


    Written by Doug Milne @PGATOUR

    When Nicole Robbins arrived at The Honda Classic on Tuesday, she did so to a collection of awaiting, inspired members of the media. Passing spectators looked on curiously, perplexed as to who the beaming woman in a bright Lilly Pulitzer blouse was.

    In Robbins’ arms, nestled into her chest and sleeping soundly, was Nicole’s seven-month-old daughter, Lola Sofia. Donning a matching Lilly Pulitzer dress, the mother and daughter were the center of attention, despite the presence of golf’s adopted First Lady Barbara Nicklaus.

    Along with Robbins and Nicklaus was Dr. Saima Aftab, the Chief Strategy Officer at Nicklaus Children’s Health System and Honda Classic Board Member.

    In what can be – and has been – deemed an absolute act of fate, when Robbins went to labor on a Sunday in late July at Jupiter Medical Center seemingly distress-free, the supervising and on-call doctor that day happened to be Dr. Aftab.

    Lola Sofia Robbins came into the world after having inhaled an excessive amount of amniotic fluid, threatening her life. As a result, just minutes old, Lola Sofia was transferred to the Level 2 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit which, as part of the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation, direct benefits from The Honda Classic as the event’s primary charity beneficiary. Upon closer inspection, Dr. Aftab quickly insisted on Lola Sofia being airlifted to the Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami.

    “I’ll never forget the conversation I had with Nicole about how sick her newborn daughter was,” said Dr. Aftab. “She spent many, many days in the ICU and receiving the highest level of care. Nicole never left the bedside.”

    “Dr. Aftab was honest with me and said Lola Sofia’s was one of the worst of pulmonary hypertension she had ever seen,” Nicole said.

    Lola Sofia would remain on life support for 40 days, all while under the care of Dr. Aftab. It then took multiple weeks for the team of physicians to reach a consensus that the infant was out of the woods and able to be removed from a ventilator.

    A short time later, Lola Sofia strengthened to the point where she could be taken home.

    “She started improving, and improving very fast,” said Dr. Aftab. “Soon it got to the point to where she could come off the ventilator and take her first breath on her own. It’s the little things, like being able to just hold your baby and hear your baby’s voice or even a cry. Those are the things we can sometimes take for granted.

    “For Nicole, every little milestone is such a precious milestone.”

    At PGA National this week in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Nicole and her healthy baby girl were on hand for a simple reason – to thank the Nicklaus family for all their foundation does, and Dr. Aftab for all she did.

    “I am just blown away being here today and seeing her looking so wonderful,” Dr. Aftab said. “I am amazed she went through what she went through and to see her today. She is gorgeous and quite the diva. It’s just such a privilege and pleasure to be a part of her incredible journey.”

    “I was scared, really scared,” Nicole said. “All I kept asking was, ‘Is she going to make it and live? Are we going to come out of this?’ It was very scary.”

    Today, Lola Sofia is now home and living a normal life with her family. According to Dr. Aftab, since being released from ICU, Lola Sofia has exceeded every developmental milestone.

    “It really and truly felt like a miracle, it really did,” Nicole said. “I’m just so grateful, not to mention so in love with my beautiful baby girl. I was so happy to be able to finally bring her home to meet her brother.”

    The uniting of doctor, patient and Barbara Nicklaus on site at PGA National for a happy reunion serves as a convergence of sorts for all The Honda Classic does. With the Nicklaus Children’s Healthcare Foundation as the tournament’s primary beneficiary, the money that goes to Jupiter Medical Center crosses over to the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami.

    Additionally, Nicklaus Children’s is part of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and its Play Yellow campaign, established in 2019 with the support of Barbara and Jack Nicklaus to create a charity initiative through the game of golf to increase awareness and financial support for children’s health care across the country. To date, the program has raised over $97 million.

    “When you ask what it means to us, I need only look at Lola Sofia to see why we do it,” said Barbara Nicklaus. “Here was a baby that was not likely to live…yet, here she is today as a perfect little six-month old baby. For our foundation to be a part of something like this leaves us feeling so blessed and glad that we can help when and where as needed.”

    Not only has Nicklaus Children’s in Miami served families from every state, but its reach also includes patients in more than 120 countries, truly making it a global force in the field of saving and improving lives.

    In addition to the staff and doctors’ unparalleled abilities and quality of care, the Nicklaus Legacy Children’s Fund ensures that every child – regardless of financial situation – will be treated.

    “The Honda Classic was actually what gave us the initiative to start our foundation,” Nicklaus said. “When the tournament moved here, they wanted to be a part of the community and wanted to offer us a chance to get involved. Now, we are the chief benefactor of The Honda Classic, which is another blessing. It has been a never-ending and fabulous way to go.”

    And, thanks to the Nicklaus Children’s Healthcare Foundation and The Honda Classic, Nicole and Lola Sofia Robbins have an even more fabulous way to go; it’s called the road that leads home.

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