April 2, 2010

Infant’s early arrival tests family, care team

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Greyson Stokes, here clutching thefinger of his father, Matthew Stokes, weighed only 26 ounces at birth.

Infant’s early arrival tests family, care team

Greyson “Grey” Stokes is a cheerful and adorable one-year-old. His dramatic entrance into the world is an event his parents, Kiley and Matthew Stokes, will never forget.

Grey was born nearly four months early — at 25-weeks gestation, weighing only 1 pound, 10 oz., and measuring 13 inches.

When Kiley, employee services manager for Vanderbilt Dining Services, was 24 weeks pregnant, she experienced swelling in her ankles and was not feeling well, so she went to her obstetrician on her way in to work the morning of March 24, 2009.

After doing some tests, she was admitted to Labor and Delivery at Vanderbilt University Hospital for observation. She was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, a rare, life-threatening complication of pregnancy.

“I remember the high-risk neonatologist came in and gave me horrific stats,” Kiley said. “Then Dr. Charles Rush came in and said that realistically, we would probably only make it two weeks before having to deliver. I think we made it five days.”

Greyson Stokes, with his parents, Kiley and Matthew, is now developmentally on track for his age.

Greyson Stokes, with his parents, Kiley and Matthew, is now developmentally on track for his age.

Kiley's condition began to deteriorate, and it was becoming more dangerous for her to continue to carry Grey, so she was moved to the front of the line to have a Cesarean section, which took place on March 30, 2009.

“They told me he was out and that he was trying to breathe,” she said. “They showed him to me for about two seconds, then, like an army, the NICU team marched in.”

Grey was immediately taken to the Stahlman Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Vanderbilt University Hospital.

When Kiley first visited her son, she looked at him and wondered how he could ever survive. She recalled Matthew worriedly observing, “We have the sickest baby in the NICU.”

Kiley said the first two weeks were “rocky.” Initially, within the first three days, Grey's lungs seemed to be supporting him along with the help of a ventilator, but a few days after he was born, he needed intensive assistance and was put on a jet ventilator, a special device capable of breathing for a baby at rates exceeding those of a normal ventilator.

Due to extreme prematurity, Grey's patent ductus arterious did not close after birth. When this happens, excess blood flows into the lungs and can cause breathing difficulties and sometimes heart failure. Kiley and Matthew soon had to consider that Grey would need surgery to repair the vessel in his heart.

However, after two rounds of medical treatment involving indomethacin, Grey's ductus arterious closed on its own.

There were other scares along the way. Grey developed a serious infection which required aggressive medicine; he was diagnosed with anemia, which means he lacked the number of red blood cells necessary to carry adequate oxygen to his body.

This condition required him to have a blood transfusion; he also had an inguinal hernia repaired during his hospitalization.

But he continued to improve slowly and steadily.

Kiley and Matthew spent many hours at the NICU, praying by Grey's bed, assisting in his care and anxiously awaiting the moment they could hold their son for the first time.

Finally, on May 11, 2009, 41 days after Grey's birth, the time had come.

Kiley wrote on her blog that chronicles Grey's life, “Grey is so tiny that I almost hesitated when the nurse spoke the longed-for words 'would you like to hold Greyson today?' However, it felt perfect. For a moment nothing else mattered… I am a mother and this proves it!”

On July 11, 2009, just a few days after Grey's original due date and 102 days after his birth, he was discharged from the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt and went home with his parents.

“I was so nervous,” Kiley recalled about finally taking their seven-pound son home. “I have never been so excited or nervous. I prayed about this day.”

Grey has flourished at home. He returned to Children's Hospital for an overnight stay in December 2009 to have a second inguinal hernia repaired, but has otherwise been completely healthy.

Today, Grey is developmentally on track for his age and keeps his parents busy as he crawls around and explores his surroundings.

Kiley reflected on Grey's journey on her blog, “He is such a beautiful little boy that we can easily forget that he was born too soon. Being born 15 weeks early at the edge of viability opens the door to countless medical conditions that can arise from such trauma. We definitely encountered many battles in the beginning — however, Grey has taken a different path.

“Somehow we are beating the odds. Often I ask myself, 'how have we gotten here?' The medical path of a mircopreemie is unknown and totally unpredictable. Grey went from being one of the sickest babies in the NICU to one of the healthiest.”

The Stokes, their family and friends will be walking in the March of Dimes' March for Babies on April 18 in support of Grey and other premature babies.

To sign up to walk with the Children's Hospital team, visit http://www.marchforbabies.org/s_team_page.asp?SeId=1344892&si.