I was exactly 23 weeks pregnant when I was at work and went into active labor. As an ER nurse, I knew that the outcome of babies born this early more likely than not was not a good one. The two days I was on bed rest were filled with terrifying discussions about "viability" and the low percentage that my child would even survive outside of the delivery room. At the hospital I was admitted to, babies born at 23 weeks and 4 days had at least a sliver of a chance. Any babies born before that were too small and too premature.
After two scary days on bed rest, I was rushed into an emergency c-section. My labor had progressed past the point of no return. I don't remember much from my time in the delivery room, but I do remember hearing a nurse shout, "the baby's moving!," being told it was a boy, then giving him a quick kiss before he was rushed to the NICU and placed on a ventilator. Ryan was born at 23 weeks and 3 days, technically not a viable baby. He weighed 1 pound, 5 ounces.
Ryan spent weeks after that fighting for his life. Because he was so early, his lungs were so underdeveloped and kept shutting down. The first few weeks he was so sick and fragile he couldn't be repositioned in his isolette. His airway was so tiny any movement could dislodge his breathing tube and he wouldn't be able to get oxygen. We sat by his isolette day and night, holding our breaths every time his heart rate dropped or his oxygen plummeted.
At one point a few weeks in, Ryan's lungs continued to shut down. The doctors threw everything they could at him and he wasn't improving. The neonatologist gave us the possibility of the grim outcome, and promised to do everything they could. We prepared for the worst scenario, but the whole time Ryan kept kicking away in his isolette and fighting harder than anyone could imagine.
Miraculously, Ryan turned the corner and pulled through. His lungs were still precarious, but every day began to look better and better. After 3 weeks, he was finally stable enough that I could hold him. Holding his tiny, less than two pound body against my chest was the best moment I could have imagined.
Ryan spent 9 weeks on a ventilator before he was able to be weaned off and onto oxygen. Multiple times, he pulled out his own breathing tube. I watched him turn blue and lifeless as they struggled to get him breathing and reinsert his tube more times than I can count. Finally, one day Ryan decided enough was enough, pulled out his tube, and never looked back.
He then spent weeks on Bipap, then CPAP, then high flow oxygen, then a nasal cannula. He had to be transported to another NICU for laser eye surgery for retinopathy of prematurity. Every day he fought, and grew, and exceeded the expectations of all of the medical staff. Finally, after 146 days in the NICU, exactly one month after his due date, Ryan came home for good. No oxygen, no monitor, and no long term issues to be had.
As I sit and type this, the miracle baby that was not supposed to make it out of the delivery room is smiling and laughing away. We are forever indebted to the NICU doctors, PAs, APRNs, nurses, and staff for everything they did for Ryan and fighting as hard as he did for the best possible outcome. I'm currently in graduate school to become an APRN myself, with the hopes of working in the NICU upon graduation and pay it forward to more tiny, incredible miracles like Ryan.
Written by: Katie Vigil, mother of Ryan