Meet the Connell Family
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In 2010, we were thrilled to discover that we were expecting our first child together. At the age of 37, I was considered advanced maternal age, and while my ob-gyn kept a closer eye on me, we weren’t expecting any complications. I continued working full time, and traveling extensively as my job required. In November I was on business trip in California, and suffered from what I thought was a GI bug. I reached out to my doctor a few days after returning home just to check in, even though I was feeling better. Because of my age, and being just 25 weeks into the pregnancy, they wanted me to come in just as a precaution, and we discovered that my blood pressure was somewhat high. The follow-up lab testing found that my platelets were extremely low. At this point, I was sent up to Labor and Delivery at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics to receive fluids and some closer monitoring, and my husband Tim met me there. We were both feeling overwhelmed and scared, while trying to remain hopeful. The High-Risk team took over my care, and an ultrasound discovered that there was very little amniotic fluid and almost no cord blood flow. Each of these things- the elevated blood pressure, low platelets, and no fluid all pointed towards the possibility of my having HELLP Syndrome, although I wasn’t a “classic case.” The next morning they wanted to do a biophysical profile (BPP) to see how the baby was doing, and were happy when we scored 8 out of a possible 8. Things were holding steady, and after giving me a second steroid shot to help with lung development, we continued to wait and monitor. The BPP was repeated, and with a score of 2 out of 8, I was rushed in for an emergency c-section.
On Friday, November 19, 2010, our son Jacob David was born at 9:29pm. Weighing 1 pound 5.5 ounces, and measuring shorter than a ruler, he was whisked off to the NICU very quickly with his 8 person care team, while I had to remain behind in delivery with my own equally large care team. Because I had HELLP syndrome, and was still at risk for stroke, seizure, and even death, I had to remain in the care of the High-Risk team and on magnesium sulfate for 24 hours after his birth. I didn’t get to see Jacob in the NICU until after that 24 hour period.
On Sunday morning, a little after 1:00am, they wheeled me to the NICU. Still being very sick myself, I ended up getting dizzy in the hallway, and three nurses rushed to bring me some oxygen. I sat there in the NICU sucking oxygen out of a tiny little mask with my head between my knees, adamant that I was going to go in and see my baby. I was determined to prove that poor Labor and Delivery nurse wrong when she kept saying I should just go back downstairs. They rolled me into his room in Bay One, and I was breathless as I looked at this tiny little baby. There were so many wires and so much equipment, and he was just so small- I immediately cried tears of joy, fear, and thankfulness. We were both amazed and overwhelmed.
Because of his birth at 25 weeks and 1 day, Jacob had a very long NICU journey. He spent his first two months in Bay One, the area with the most critical babies. His lungs were his biggest problem during his stay, going through three different ventilators in six days because he kept maxing out the settings. He received 6 doses of surfactant, 3 courses of steroids, and was on nitric oxide for 82 days. He also had a hole in his heart- a PDA- that was finally closed with surgery after 3 courses of indomethacin and it stubbornly reopening each time. After 126 days in the NICU, Jacob was finally discharged with oxygen that he remained on until just before his 2nd birthday. At 7 months old, his growth was falling behind, and we opted to have a G-Tube placed to help give him the calories that he needed to help him grow, not just support his breathing. This G-Tube was a part of our lives for just over 5 years, along with intensive feeding therapies. We been through physical therapy, occupational therapy, and ophthalmology along with high-risk follow up, ENT, and a host of other issues.
Jacob is now almost 7 years old, and we are amazed every day with our little boy. He will be heading to first grade in the fall, and while we are still working through his recent ADHD and anxiety diagnosis, we know that he will be successful in all that he does. He loves learning about all of the “how” and “why” of things- just like a budding engineer! We love to read, and he enjoys anything to do with tractors, trucks, dinosaurs, and superheroes. It’s pretty fitting, as he is our own personal superhero! We are honored to be serving as the 2017 Signature Chefs Auction Ambassador Family, and are happy to be giving back to an organization whose mission is inspired by all babies, those born healthy and those who need help to survive and thrive. The research conducted via the March of Dimes saved our son, and we are proud to share our story to inspire others. I know that together we can help make a difference to other families just like ours.
~Sara, Tim and Jacob Connell