In honor of November being Prematurity Awareness Month, I am sharing a preemie success story of a woman I recently had the pleasure of getting to know- her name is Jaime Hamm and her daughter’s name is Ayla.
Below is Ayla Hamm’s Preemie Success Story. She began her life as a little fighter at 27 weeks and she is now a beautiful 2 year old! Please read her story and share it with someone who needs hope.
“When I found out I was pregnant with a second daughter, I thought of the tea parties she could have with her sister. I thought of all the experiences I could share with them and what I could teach them and what they could learn together. However, at 27 weeks and 3 days, I went into labor at a hospital I’d never heard of, with a doctor I’d never met, and delivered via c-section, a 1 lb 14 oz. 13 inch baby girl, Ayla Evelyn, who had less than a 10% chance of survival. A bacterial infection that began in my placenta and spread to my uterus forced Ayla to find a way out of what should’ve been the safest place in the world for her.
The next three and a half months would require a strength that our family didn’t know we were capable of as we navigated through our new life in the NICU. Small victories, such as when Ayla would gain 30 grams or when one of her many IV’s were removed, were short-lived. It was a two steps forward and ten steps back kind of world. One minute I’m breast-feeding her for the first time, the very next minute her lung collapsed.
There was no relief…only hopeful sadness that would occasionally make way for a bit of good news. The possible outcomes of having such a premature baby were severe. If she did survive, Ayla could suffer from cerebral palsy, brain damage…just pick your worst case scenario, according to statistics, it was a likelihood.
My pregnancy with Ayla was unremarkable in regards to the fact that all my blood work was fine, I was eating well and getting exercise through long walks in Central Park with Mila. Since I was 34, I wasn’t high-risk so there wasn’t any need for an amniocentesis – the only thing that would’ve detected the infection.
On the evening of March 13th, 2012, I started having what felt like contractions. Surely, at six months, I wasn’t going into labor – or so me and my husband told ourselves – so I took a warm bath and tried to relax. A couple hours later the “contractions” had not subsided. We called my ObGyn, and she advised that we go to the local hospital down the road and have them rule out contractions just to be on the safe side. An hour later, it was confirmed. They were in fact contractions and I was in pre-term labor.
The ER advised that their hospital wasn’t equipped for a preemie of that size and I would need to be transferred to another hospital that had a
level III or level IV NICU. I was frightened. I had no idea where I was going, who would be helping me, and I certainly didn’t know if my child would survive this…I was only 27 weeks!
Seventeen hours later after a painful emergency c-section and horrified gasps from an attending nurse upon seeing the condition of my uterus, Ayla was born. I saw her for only a moment before CPR was initiated and she was whisked away in a plastic box. A doctor from the NICU met me in recovery to explain the situation. Ayla was sick, really sick and her chances were less than 10% of surviving the night. In the words of the neonatologist, “we need her to fight.” And fight she did!
Ayla had lost three quarters of her blood supply fighting the infection my body had failed to protect her from. She survived six blood transfusions, three collapsed lungs, a grade-2 brain bleed, retinopathy, dangerously high bilirubin counts (jaundice), a slight opening in her kidney, and a heart murmur. Ayla suffered through countless infections and infinite needle pricks to her tiny hands and feet.
The suffering a mother goes through watching helplessly as their baby fights with every labored breath in their small body to survive is immeasurable. All I could do was use my hospital grade breast pump dutifully every 3 hours so that Ayla would always have fresh breast milk, read countless books and studies on prematurity, sit next to her incubator for hours at a time, and pray to God for a miracle…even if my lack of attendance in church didn’t quite warrant one, I prayed for one anyway.
On June 4th, after Ayla’s brain bleed had begun to resolve and it was safe enough to move her, Ayla was transferred to New York Presbyterian Hospital to have sight-saving eye surgery. The increase in oxygen delivered to Ayla after the collapse of her right lung, then her left, and then her right again, caused her right eye to hemorrhage. However, upon closer inspection, the doctor told us that she wouldn’t need the surgery after all.
After months of setbacks and heartbreak, Ayla was out of the woods. In three more weeks, at a whopping 5 lbs. 9 ozs., Ayla came home. Today, Ayla, is a happy, playful, walking, running, 2-year-old, who loves Fisher Price Little People, her Pinkie Pie doll, and adores her big sister, Mila.
There are no more neonatologists, urologists, cardiologists, or ophthalmologists. She finished physical therapy and after 4 months of speech therapy, she is starting to talk. My experience with Ayla changed me forever.
I learned so many things, namely patience. I had to learn that it would take hours, days, weeks, months, sometimes YEARS, to get answers to questions I had (and still have) about what her life would be like. I learned to trust the neonatologists, the nurses, the specialists, the x-ray technicians, and even the ambulance driver. I had to relinquish my most basic right as a mom to protect and care for my baby to strangers who had the medical expertise to help her – I’m glad I did, they saved her life.
I learned that I was stronger than I gave myself credit for, that you can never cry enough, and that a mother’s love for her child trumps all. I learned that miracles can and do happen and I’ve learned to be thankful. I’m thankful for the incredible doctors. I’m thankful for the nurses who held Ayla when I wasn’t there and thankful for the friends and family who rallied behind us. I’m thankful for the advances in modern science that in only the last few years have helped give these tiny angels a better chance at life. Finally, I’m thankful that instead of holding Ayla’s hand through a small opening in an incubator, I get to hold it when we cross the street to go to the playground.
In the end, it was Ayla who was the teacher and I was the student. Through her, I learned how to be the best mom I can be to two wonderful little ladies…who like to have tea parties.”