Search & Replace S03E05: Jodi Klaristenfeld

Jodi Klaristenfeld’s birth did not go as planned due to a rare illness called HELLP Syndrome. As a result, her baby was born premature and needed to be hospitalized in the NICU for 77 days. Jodi’s own health was also at risk, and she felt alone and traumatized throughout the experience. After her daughter came home, Jodi committed to creating a support system for parents in similar situations. She founded FLRRiSH, which offers resources and tools to parents of premature babies. Listen to Jodi’s inspiring story on Search and Replace. 

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[00:00:00] Announcer: Support for the following podcast is provided by the user experience specialist at Johns and Taylor. More information follows this episode. 

[00:00:09] Joe Taylor Jr.: What if an experience that’s supposed to be special turns into one of the scariest times of your life? I’m Joe Taylor, Jr. This is Search and Replace.

Like many expecting mothers, Jodi Klaristenfeld looked forward to the special memories surrounding the birth of her first child, except Jodi didn’t get to have them. 

[00:00:34] Jodi Klaristenfeld: I can honestly say that I don’t remember my delivery experience because I, point blankly, I was knocked out. 

I had not been feeling well for the four days leading up to her birth, and I really thought that it had to do with, I just hit my 28 week mark. I had had a very easy pregnancy up until then, so I thought things were catching up to me. It wasn’t until the day that I actually gave birth to her that I knew something was really, really wrong. 

The night before, I kind of stopped eating and drinking because I felt like there was no space left in my belly or my body. And my mom, thankfully, had flown in from Florida to New York to be with me. When I woke up on that Wednesday morning and I started to see double, I said to my. I’ve gotta go to call Dr. Roma. I walked into his office at 12:30, I had gained over 20 pounds. And it was all water weight. And my blood pressure was like one 90 over, like one 60 or something like that.

So I walked into the hospital at one o’clock. The hospital knew we were coming. She was born 3:16 on a Wednesday. I didn’t meet her until Friday night. 

I was on magnesium trying to help get my blood pressure down. I had what is called HELLP Syndrome. It’s a rare illness. It’s very deadly, and actually the seeing double is one of the last signs while your body is shutting down. And my OB had said to my mom that neither my daughter nor I would’ve made it through the night. 

[00:02:16] Joe Taylor Jr.: Jodi’s terrifying experience was only made worse by the realization that nobody saw it coming. 

[00:02:23] Jodi Klaristenfeld: It’s very overwhelming and scary to say the least, especially when it’s something that it’s unexpected because when you’re pregnant, I don’t think anyone really expects to have their baby early and hooked up to machines fighting for their lives.

Nor do I think anyone expects the mom to be sometimes fighting for their life. And I also don’t think people ever think about going home from the hospital and leaving their child. I was scared for my own life. I was scared for her life, and I just felt so alone, even though I have the best family and husband in the whole world.

I just felt that I was like in my own little bubble and like my life was spinning out of control. 

[00:03:14] Joe Taylor Jr.: Jodi and her family spent nearly three months in that frightening little bubble. 

[00:03:19] Jodi Klaristenfeld: My daughter was in the NICU for 77 days. She came home three days before her due date. 

It was extremely difficult. I wanna preface also, the doctors and nurses are the most angelic people. They are cut from a different mold. Their patience level is incredible and their attention to detail and every, everything is amazing. That said, you know, they’re there to treat the babies, but the parents are also traumatized. 

Over 85% of parents who have babies in the NICU experience some type of mental trauma or mental debilitation while either in the NICU or after the NICU. And the truth is there is no support by and large for parents. 

[00:04:18] Joe Taylor Jr.: Recovering from that experience, Jodi made a commitment to make it easier for other parents going through similar crises. 

[00:04:25] Jodi Klaristenfeld: I wasn’t sure what that was exactly, or what that was going to look like. And I also knew that I needed time away, like, to distance myself from that experience so that I could look back and say, this is what I needed most or this is what I felt was missing. 

Every moment is pivotal during those first years for growth and development. And I realized that I had the wherewithal to do it, and I felt like, well, there has to be a need for this because over 360,000 babies are born premature each year. That’s a lot of people who need services and help for their children and also need help for themselves.

So it was in that that I realized that I wanted to do something. I spoke to a mentors and together we came up with FLRRiSH because whenever I describe Jenna, my daughter, I always say she’s flourishing and growing. And everything is about human growth and development. And FLRRiSH can grow as she grows, and that way I can also always be adding some tools or resources to FLRRiSH just as she is growing as well. 

[00:05:41] Joe Taylor Jr.: Jodi has some advice that she wishes she had heard at the start of her family’s time in the NICU. 

[00:05:46] Jodi Klaristenfeld: I always say to parents, first and foremost, take a deep breath because thinking so many steps ahead can be really difficult. Trying to think in small, incremental steps. Not even necessarily week by week. Could be day by day or morning to afternoon, break your day down or break what is bothering me down into smaller, manageable steps. Maybe it won’t seem as overwhelming. And who cares if you need a little extra support doing it. Right? There should be no stigma attached to that. 

Also, for me, it made me realize what’s important in life and to celebrate every, everything. I don’t know if I would have had Jenna not been born this way, but I have learned to do that and I absolutely love it, and I’m convinced that’s why she’s so happy. 

That’s Jody Klaristenfeld, founder of, spelled without the usual u and o. We’ve got links to Jodi’s work in our show notes and on our website at

Today’s episode was produced by Nicole Hubbard with help from the entire Podcast Taxi team.

I’m Joe Taylor, Jr.

[00:07:05] Announcer: This has been a Podcast Taxi radio production.

Support for Search and Replace is provided by Johns and Taylor, user experience specialists serving media and technology companies that want their websites to work. 

Learn more about how top performing businesses eliminate barriers between customers and their goals at

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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