Against impossible odds: NICU to the rescue
Weighing 1 pound, 1 ounce at birth, little Alexis Hutchinson was not much bigger than a block of butter. Now—thanks to a team of specially trained experts in the highest level Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Iowa—Alexis is a 1-year-old well on her way to a normal life.
Alexis’s prospects seemed dim at the beginning. Her mother, Chrissy Carpenter of Manchester, had a normal pregnancy until 22 weeks. An infection caused her to go into labor with an extremely high probability of miscarriage. Chrissy was quickly transferred from Cedar Rapids to the high-risk maternal fetal medicine obstetrics service at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. There, shortly after her arrival, Alexis was born under the watchful eye of a team of neonatal specialists led by Jonathan Klein, MD.
Alexis had no heart rate initially but survived thanks to the team’s resuscitation expertise. She spent the next 84 days on a ventilator in the NICU at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Many babies who spend that long on ventilation don’t like to eat once they get taken off.
"It was scary," Chrissy says. “The doctors told us to take it hour-by-hour.”
Alexis faced many risks, from jaundice to apnea (episodes of stopped breathing) and even more serious concerns like infection, low blood pressure, and bleeding into the brain. While many premature babies overcome their difficulties, some have impaired hearing or vision; others experience developmental delays or learning disabilities in childhood. Alexis overcame those odds to survive and thrive.
When Alexis was finally healthy enough to join her family at home, there was much to celebrate. The outlook for a normal childhood now seems bright.
Looking back, Chrissy marvels at the highly specialized care Alexis received from a team that included doctors, nurses (often called ‘guardian angels’ by families), nurse practitioners, respiratory and rehabilitation therapists, pharmacists, nutritionists, clinical lab scientists and technicians, imaging specialists, social workers, and the baby’s family.
"Everyone was really great." Chrissy says. "Alexis is truly our 'miracle child.' She wouldn’t have survived at any other hospital in Iowa."