World Prematurity Day: Premature birth can hit close to home, even to one of our own

By The Pulse Nov 17, 2016

From this Price family portrait, it's hard to tell that baby Kellan was born prematurely at 29 weeks on Mother's Day, 2016. He was just 3 pounds, 3 ounces.

Today is World Prematurity Day, a day to raise awareness about the No. 1 cause of infant death in the world. While lifestyle choices, access to health care and other factors can play a role in preterm labor and birth, sometimes there is nothing mothers can do to prevent it. And, sometimes, premature birth hits close to home.

In April, one of our own labor and delivery nurses, Janelle Price, went into labor at 27 weeks. Wyoming Medical Center has a Level II nursery and can safely care for many premature babies, but not as early as 27 weeks. In the article below, Janelle’s husband, Chris Price, tells the family’s harrowing story about the birth of their son, Kellan — a baby who wanted to come way too soon.

Written by Chris Price, father to Kellan

At 2 p.m. April 21, 2016, I received the phone call from my wife: Her water broke. My heart sank into my chest. 

“This is not supposed to happen,” I thought. “She is only 27 weeks along in her pregnancy! What could have gone wrong?”

I rushed home from work as fast as possible to pick up Janelle, my wife and a labor and delivery nurse at Wyoming Medical Center.  I tried to keep my composure and reassure her that things would be okay as we sped towards the hospital.

Doctors quickly confirmed that Janelle had indeed ruptured, and we were flown to Children’s Hospital in Denver which specializes in neonatal cases. They gave Janelle a decent dose of magnesium sulfate, which slowed her contractions and held off labor for the night. She was then sentenced to bed rest so her activity levels would not induce labor any further. The goal was to keep her this way for as long as possible, and then induce labor at 34 weeks gestation after seven weeks of bed rest. 

A couple of days later, however, Janelle went into active labor again. Again she was given medicine to slow the contractions and protect our unborn child. This worked, and we were beginning to sit on pins and needles as the days just dragged on. It was so hard to be so far away from home, with no idea of when I could go back to take care of the many things requiring attention.

Baby Kellan was just 15 inches long when he was born on May 8 at 29 weeks. The Price family made the drive between Casper and Denver frequently during that time.

Janelle went into full active labor two more times. She finally ended up delivering Kellan at 29 weeks on Mother’s Day, May 8, 2016. She was on bed rest for 17 days. Kellan weighed 3 pounds, 3 ounces and was 15 inches long. 

Thanks to the wonderful medical staff, Kellan was born strong and healthy, and with much help from certain steroids and other medicines was able to breathe on his own, aided only by supplemental oxygen at the lowest level. Kellan spent the first few weeks in the NICU — Neonatal Intensive Care Unit — with only an IV, a feeding tube and the oxygen. Although very small, Kellan was one of the biggest and healthiest babies on the hospital floor which housed over 80 infants. 

After the first several weeks of growing and developing, Kellan was sent to the step-down unit of the NICU. And finally in mid-June, after the longest 56 days of our lives, Kellan was discharged from the hospital. We brought him to his new home in Casper. 

I never mentioned the things that went on during our stay. While Janelle remained in Denver for the entire duration, I was forced to travel back and forth for work about six times. Janelle and I each developed our routines for our temporary residence in Denver. 

Our other son, who was not even 2, was a trouper during the Denver stay, along with the many times he traveled back and forth with other family members. Our support circle of friends and family are what made this life event even remotely possible. Also, the support which came from the March of Dimes was unmatched; it tremendously helped with travel expenses.

I learned just how fragile life is, and how incredibly important it is to step up and take the most honorable responsibility a dad can have. While we were so blessed in our situation compared to many of the other babies who were in the hospital, we still had to endure the process of watching our tiny infant lay helplessly in a containment unit hooked up 24/7 to wires and machines. And there was nothing we could do but wait, and hope that he would grow to be strong and healthy. 

At 6 months old, Kellan is hitting all the milestones for a typical baby his age.

Today, Kellan is a normal baby and is 6 months old. He weighs as much as a normal 6-month old baby and meeting other developmental milestones. He is a happy baby, who you would never know was a preemie. 

Click here to learn how Wyoming Medical Center's Level II Nursery is able to keep more premature babies and their families in Casper, close to home.

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