Baby Born at 21 Weeks and Weighing Just One Pound Heads Home From Hospital

In the early morning hours of June 9, Sherrye awoke to waves of stomach pains. Worried about being 21 weeks pregnant, she decided to take a shower while she monitored her pain. When the waves of pain became consistent, she knew she was about to give birth. Sherrye woke up her husband, Jamar, and rushed to him MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach.

When they arrived at the hospital, the OB/GYN care team knew the situation was dire. A normal pregnancy lasts 40 weeks and a birth at 21 weeks is considered a micro-preemie. The chances are low – less than 10 percent – for Sherrye and Jamar’s child to survive being born at such a premature age.

Sherrye and Jamar weighed their options and asked to consult with Miller Children’s & Women’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) group. During the consultation, Peggy Chen, MDneonatologist, heard about the dire situation and decided to take on the challenge by intubating and resuscitating the micro-preemie.

“Dr. Chen had the mind, skill and courage to deliver and intubate,” said Jamar. “We are so grateful to Dr. Chen believed in Marz and brought us to where we are today.”

Marz was born at one pound, one ounce at 7:03 a.m. on June 9; he was about the size and weight of a soda can – setting a record for the premature baby born and discharged at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach.

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“The survival of this baby is a modern miracle,” said Antoine Soliman, MD, medical director, NICU, Miller Children’s & Women’s. “We know that babies born extremely premature like this, don’t all survive. But because Miller Children’s & Women’s NICU has a Small Baby Centerthat there is a Very Low Birth Weight Program dedicated to providing special care to micro-preemies, Marz had a higher chance of survival.”

Sick, critically ill and premature babies can receive care from the team at Miller Children’s & Women’s thanks to its Level IV NICU. Within the NICU is the Extremely Low Birth Weight Program, which provides special care to babies born less than 28 weeks or weighing less than 1,000 grams. The Extremely Low Birth Weight Program care team is a group of highly trained, multi-disciplinary physicians, nurses, clinicians and therapists dedicated to serving the unique needs of incredibly premature newborns. The environment inside the Small Baby Center mimics a mother’s womb, providing a warm and dark environment for a baby to grow in a more developmentally appropriate environment.

Sherrye and Jamar attribute much of Marz’s success to the care team that trusted him. Miraculously, she needed zero surgery, and instead spent four and a half months in the NICU growing and getting stronger.

“Marz taught us how fragile life is,” Sherrye said. “Our trust in God, ourselves and the team here has grown. Any questions we had for the doctors – and we had many – they answered with respect, care and detail.”

The support and community the care team provided for the family was untold – a month after Marz was born, Sherrye’s father died. Sherrye shared that the staff, especially the support of Rev. Candace Kelly, NICU Chaplain; James Earhart, Ph.D., NICU Psychologist; Brenda Macias, Family Resource Coordinator; and Erin Tukua, Child Life Specialist, helped a lot during this difficult time. Additionally, the NICU care team continued to check on Marz, even though they weren’t assigned to her that day, just so they could update Sherrye and Jamar while they were gone.

“The staff went above and beyond to take care of our son here,” Sherrye said. “We weren’t looking for any of this and we really had a community during a very difficult time.”

During Marz’s four months in the NICU, the staff went above and beyond to provide comfort to the family. Child Life’s music therapist, Lauryl, taught their oldest daughter Kennedy how to play the guitar. Kennedy developed an interest in the instrument so Lauryl decided to buy Kennedy his own guitar through MemorialCare’s Simply Better Trust, a program designed to empower staff to create an extraordinary experience for a patient and their family. Additionally, Lauryl coordinates by partnering with JoyRx Music Programthree months of free music lessons for Kennedy.

A nurse who became close to Jamar, surprised him with a handmade painting of a nurse’s hands reviving baby Marz. Another nurse gave Sherrye a handmade blanket for their son.

On NICU graduation day, Sherrye and Jamar shared their excitement to bring Marz home to join his big sister, read poems Jamar had written and sing songs Sherrye had created for Marz. They pray that their story helps another family believe in a fighting chance for the unexpected.

“Stay focused on what’s most important, no matter what things look like,” says Jamar. “Outcomes are a matter of perception and it’s very important to have faith.”

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