Friday, March 6, 2009

My husband and I started dating while we were still in high school. I was 15, and he was 16. From the start, we dreamed of having children one day. I always wanted to be a Mom; it was my God given passion and life goal. We tried for a couple of years to have our first child.  We suffered a miscarriage and endured months of fertility treaments, but finally conceived twins after a cycle of IUI.  After some issues early in the pregnancy we finally saw the heartbeat of our first child. The pregnancy was overall uncomplicated except for being an insuin-dependent gestational diabetic. God blessed us with Bradley, born full term at 38 weeks, in March 2006. As soon as he started sleeping through the night, we started trying for another child. We were eager to give Bradley a sibling, and we of course wanted more children. It was a long journey that included a year of grueling fertility treatments and much disappointment including another miscarriage after a round of IVF. Finally, after our second round of IVF we became pregnant with triplets. We rejoiced in God’s plan and looked forward to their due date, March 13, 2009

The pregnancy was high risk, and I was followed closely by my physician. I followed the doctor’s orders and took every precaution necessary including having a cerclage placed at 12 weeks. At 20 weeks an ultrasound showed that my cervix had started to thin, and I was put on bed rest. I entered the hospital one day shy of 22 weeks due to preterm labor and was given medication to stop the labor. I stayed in the hospital, on bed rest, for a little over 2 weeks in labor with contractions coming and going. During my hospital stay I was given steroid shots to help develop the babies’ lungs. The night the babies turned 24 weeks things went very wrong. I began to have one strong contraction after another and no amount of medication would slow them down. When the doctor checked me, she found Baby ‘A’ hanging half out of my uterus in the birth canal. Little did we know at the time that my uterus had ruptured in the lower, back segment due to the weight of the triplet pregnancy. The only thing that could be done was to deliver him and try to keep the other 2 in for a little while longer. Unfortunately that wasn't possible and all 3 babies delivered at 24 weeks 1 day on November 22, 2008. The doctors had told us that babies weren’t viable until 24 weeks, and at 24 weeks that they had a 50/50 chance. So, after coming that far we assumed our children would be the 50% to survive. We knew it would be a tough road though, as the babies were born 16 weeks premature. Austin weighed 1b 7oz and was 12.5 inches long. Brayden weighed 1lb 6oz and measured 11.5 inches in length. Alexis was the smallest at 1lb 2oz and 10.5 inches. We gave Lexi the middle name Faith, because we had to have much Faith in God during our quest for more children. The first time we entered the NICU, the babies were only a few hours old. I was shocked to see the masses of tubing and wiring hooked to their tiny bodies. Each baby was on a ventilator. Brayden and Lexi were on an oscillator, because their lungs were so premature that the regular ventilator wasn’t enough to maintain their oxygen level. God gave us 5 glorious days with our miracle children, but at just 5 days old He took Lexi home to Heaven. She was born too soon and so small, and developed bilateral Grade 4 Intraventricaluar Hemorrhages. The brain bleeds are graded with Grade I being the least and Grade 4's are the worst. Just 4 days after Lexi passed away, Brayden’s bowel perforated and he had to have emergency surgery to put a drain in his abdomen to let the stool drain. Unfortunately he became septic, had strokes, and his organs began to shut down. We had to make that tough decision again, the hardest choice any parent will ever have to face, to let yet another child go while still trying to process the loss of our daughter.  Brayden passed away at 10 days old. We can't begin to describe what an enormous loss it has been for our family. However, we have been given great comfort that our son and daughter are forever safe with our Lord in Heaven.
While we were fighting for our two youngest children’s lives Austin began to grow stronger. All 3 babies had been given surfactant at birth to help their lungs inflate. They also were given Indocin to help close the Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) in their heart. Austin was followed by a cardiologist for 18 months and was eventually cleared of having any heart problems due to his prematurity. Austin developed a unilateral Grade II Intraventricalur Hemorrhage shortly after birth, and we’re hopeful that he will fully heal from this as most babies do with Grades I and II. His left lateral ventricle was enlarged from the bleed, but thankfully he hasn't developed any other complications from it thus far. Austin was on an apnea monitor for 3 months 24-7 when he came home, so he could be closely monitored in case his heart rate dropped or he stopped breathing. He remained on the monitor at night for an additional 6 weeks. Austin endured a lot while in the NICU. He had to have phototherapy to treat his jaundice, blood pressure medications, countless transfusions, and caffeine for his apnea spells. Austin spent three weeks on the ventilator at which time he was given steroids to help wean from it. Praise the Lord it worked, but his lungs are still damaged from his prematurity and prolonged time on the ventilator. He now has Chronic Lung Disease, which could persist throughout childhood and lead to hospital stays for something as simple as the common cold. Austin was discharged, from the NICU, on oxygen and remained on it for almost 3 months. Currently, he is on an inhaled steroid to help him breathe better as he works very hard to breathe thus causing him to burn more calories and is very small for his age. He is also on singular and has a rescue inhaler to help his breathing.  The outcome of this complication is still unknown at this time. He had numerous eye exams from the time he was 32 weeks gestation to check for Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). At first he had a Grade II, but it improved to a Grade 1 which didn't require surgery. Once his retina matured he was referred to a pediatric ophthalmologist and was followed every few months until he was 18 months old.  At that time the opthalmologist released Austin from his care and said that there were no lasting effects of his prematurity as far as his eyes. Austin has endured feeding intolerances that has lead to him being very small for his actual age. He took a special formula, made for preemies, which can be mixed at a higher caloric intake to help him gain weight. He was followed by a speech therapist for feeding issues from about age 11 months to 18 months as he couldn't tolerate any table foods even at 15 months old.  Thankfully, Austin can now eat any foods.  For his first few years he didn't tolerate certain dairy very well and had severe vomiting spells.  He was tested for food allergies, lactose intolerance, celiac disease, etc. and nothing was found. We aren't sure what caused this issue but limited his dairy and didn't allow him to consume any cow's milk.  Recently, we were able to transition him back to cows milk and give him a regular diet. This is a good thing as he needs the fat to grow better. We don't know if this was a result of his prematurity as well. Some doctors believe he was sensitive to dairy protein for so long because of being exposed to it before his intestines were fully developed.   His  medicine regimen has been changed a good bit trying to find the best treatment for his reflux, which is another complication of his prematurity. Currently he takes Prevacid to minimize his symptoms. He had to have a special catheter (Broviac) placed in his thigh to allow for Total Parental Nutrition (TPN) to be delivered to him through IV. TPN is a solution that is made up of protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals and given when the babies aren't able to handle full feeds properly. He also had a tube, for 13 weeks, going directly to his stomach through either his mouth or nose in order to be fed breast milk. Since Austin was so small he had to have fortifier added to his milk to increase his caloric intake. This biggest thing now is that he must grow. He's currently on an appetite stimulant, and he gained about 7 pounds between his 3rd and 4th birthday.  We are hoping he will be on the growth chart finally at his well visit.  The reason he must grow is that the lungs continue to grow new tissue until age 6. So, the more he grows weight and length wise the more his lung tissues gets new growth and the greater chance that his Iungs will be as strong as they can given his history.   He developed an inguinal hernia and had to have surgery at 33 weeks which required him to be put on the ventilator for 3 days. Austin was seen biweekly for almost 3 years by an early interventionist as it's common for preemies born as early as him to have developmental delays. A physical therapist saw Austin for a little over a year, once he was discharged from the NICU, about once a week to help him stay on target with his physical development.  Austin started walking at 15 months which was very impressive as he wasn't even delayed for his actual age.  Children with brain bleeds also have an increased chance for developing cerebral palsy, but Austin was cleared from that around 18 months. Around 12 months a speech therapist began seeing him weekly for speech issues and is planning to discharge him right around his 3rd birthday.
Thankfully, with God’s grace we’ve made it through a very difficult time. We rejoiced in our God-given when Austin cam home weighing in at 5lbs 10oz. Austin was in the hospital for almost 4 months; he was 108 days old when he went home. At 3 years old Austin  weighed 23 pounds and was about 32 inches long. Austin just turned 4 and weighs about 31 pounds.    We were blessed with an amazing medical staff in the NICU. They cried and rejoiced with us; they are truly wonderful people that choose to do these jobs. Austin did have to return to the hospital after being home a month, but it was a short visit as he needed Lasix which is a common complication of Chronic Lung Disease. He continued to need Lasix periodically for 3 months after he came home.  He had to have surgery, in July 2009, to remove a Hemangioma.  This was unrelated to his prematurity; however he had desats after being extubated and had to stay in the PICU overnight to be closely monitored for trouble breathing due to his chronic lung disease. Austin was hospitalized around his 2nd birthday due to dehydration, a cold, and the vomiting issues.  However, that hospital stay was just 48 hours. 

We want to honor Brayden and Lexi’s memory by educating people about premature birth. It is a challenging path that no parent should have to endure. March of Dimes research has lead to many breakthroughs that helped save Austin’s life.  In addition, we had another daughter, Cameron Grace, in March 2010.  March of Dimes research led to progesterone shots (P17) being given weekly to expectant mothers with a history of preterm labor.  Lisa was given these shots from the time Cameron was 16 weeks gestation to 37 weeks and Cameron was born full term at 38 weeks gestation which is amazing!  Another full term blessing, Davis Matthew, was added to the family in July 2011. Lisa received the weekly shots of P17 again with the last pregnancy as well.  March of Dimes hopes that one day all babies will be born healthy without prematurity or birth defects. We have faith that God will lead our community to rally together and inspire others to help support the March of Dimes. Our family has experienced much over the last few years, but we have much to rejoice in especially how well Austin has done. Our recent experiences have led us to become advocates for this cause so that we can prevent others from suffering this heartache. Our hope is that God will allow the sun to shine again on our family when we honor Brayden and Alexis’ lives by supporting this wonderful cause.

This post was last updated December 2012

Thursday, March 5, 2009