“Our Miracle”

By: Lynda Garza

JacobAlex

 

“A persons a person no matter how small” – Dr. Seuss

Sunday, November 18th, 2012 had seemed like any other normal day – other than being 27 weeks pregnant with our first child, a boy, due February 14th, 2013 – and we were watching our nightly TV shows when I began having frequent “Braxton hicks” contractions.  I didn’t think much of it at first since I had them previously and the baby was not due for another 13 weeks.  But the contractions became stronger and more frequent so I decided to call the doctor just in case.  I was surprised when they advised that I should go into the hospital to get checked.  The pregnancy had been going along fine so I was a little embarrassed to go to the hospital and figured they would just think I was a crazy pregnant lady and send me home.  But off we went.  They began monitoring the contractions and upon exam told me that I was staring to dilate and was fully effaced.  I was shocked and scared.  I was admitted to the hospital and they started the process of giving me multiple steroid shots to help the babies lungs develop faster, as well as pills to hopefully help ease the contractions.  For four nights I continued to have contractions and my cervix was slowing dilating more, but we were able to keep the baby where he belonged – however, on Friday, November 23rd, 2012, our son was born weighing 2 lbs, 13 oz.

As I quickly learned, every extra day that a preemie baby can stay growing safe in the womb really can make a world of difference.  Labor was quick, I pushed for five minutes and the little guy was here.  He was so tiny, but he had ten fingers and ten toes, a ton of dark hair on his head and was able to open his eyes.  There was a team of at least ten different doctors and nurses in the room and although I wasn’t able to hold my little guy, I did get to take a peek at him in his little glass box before he was taken down to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  My husband and I were finally able to go down to the NICU that night and visit our new baby.  He was quite a sight with breathing tubes in his nose and a tube down his throat and his jaundice colored skin, but I was immediately able to look past all that and see my cute little guy with a head full of hair and his tiny little feet and his captivating brown eyes.  And we received promising news that his lungs were working well and he did not need to be intubated, which was a major step in the right direction since many babies born that early need a machine to breath for them because their little lungs are just not developed enough to do the work.

After a few days, we finally decided on a name – Jacob Alexander, a strong name for our little fighter.  That first week in the NICU was overwhelming with all the beeping machines and tubes and wires everywhere, but Jacob was doing really well and they even started feeding him extremely small amounts of breast milk through a tube, in addition to the IV nutrition he was receiving.  I started to develop a routine of going to the hospital for the day and my husband met me there each day after work.  Once Jacob was in the NICU for ten days we received a disturbing call in the morning that he his belly had blown up and turned gray and that he had a big bloody diaper.  People describe an experience in the NICU as a roller coaster – with many highs and lows, advances one week only with backtracks to follow the following week.

It was with that phone call that our roller coaster ride really took off.  The doctors and nurses tried to keep us calm, but also informed us that Jacob had developed a very serious infection in his intestine called necrotizing enterocolitis or NEC.  Basically this meant that bad bacteria was attacking Jacob’s intestines and literally killing off parts of his intestines – this can happen because a preemie’s intestines are not fully developed.  He was transferred to the children’s hospital next door so the surgery team could monitor him in case he needed immediate surgery.  They began trying to treat the infection with antibiotics and tried to do this for many weeks.  After two months of many setbacks and not nearly enough advances, Jacob was finally taken in for surgery on his intestines.  The damage they discovered was a lot more extensive than what they had been expecting and he had to have 2/3rds of dead colon removed.  The days he spent recovering from surgery were by far our hardest days in the hospital.  Life or death surgery on a five pound little preemie was extremely demanding on his tiny body and he spent many days and nights on heavy breathing equipment and countless medications to regulate his blood pressure, fight off any potential infections resulting from surgery, etc.  But Jacob pulled through and each day advanced a little further.

Surgery left him with a temporary ostomy – at first it was devastating to see his little intestine coming through his belly, but as we learned to take care of the ostomy it quickly became our new normal and it was reassuring to know it was only temporary, although he would need another surgery to have all his parts put back in place.  We were finally able to bring our sweet baby boy home on February 26, 2013, two weeks after his original due date.  He had his second surgery over the summer of 2013, which he handled much better this time since he was bigger and stronger.  Jacob will be turning two years old this week. Besides being small for his age and the lifelong scar he will have across his belly, you would never know he was born too soon.  He is full of spunk, energy, sweetness, laughter and a little bit of mischief.

His smile literally lights up a room.  He has been through so much in his short life and he continues to amaze us each day as he progresses, develops and meets milestones without complications just like a normal little boy.  It is very common for preemies to encounter a number of health problems such as lung issues, brain bleeds, hearing loss and poor eyesight, to name a few – so despite Jacob’s rocky start in life, we are extremely blessed that he has remained clear of any other serious ailments.  He is truly a miracle.

15 million babies are born too soon worldwide and premature birth is the leading cause of death in newborns.  Research is the key to finding answers to why so many babies are born too soon (and Jacob’s cause is still unknown).  Many babies’ stories do not have the happy ending that we have experienced.

Click here to Please consider supporting the March of Dimes

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