By Dr. Jeff Paul, M.D.
(Today in honor of the March for Life, Hope for Orphans has the privilege of presenting a blog by Dr. Jeffery Paul M.D. In addition to serving as a neonatologist, Dr. Paul is the former Chief of Medicine for San Antonio Methodist’s Children’s Hospital. Dr. Paul and his wife have been volunteers with Hope for Orphans from almost day 1. He and his wife have two biological kids and have adopted 13 children.)
As a neonatologist, I have seen my fair share of miracles in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), but the day I helped save the life of a baby at 22 weeks gestation stands out.
When I first began my pediatric training, very few infants born at 28 weeks survived. Since then, the medical field has made great progress, and we now see up to 25% of 22-23-week-old infants survive. I witnessed this for the first time just a few years ago, and that experience highlighted for me just how far we have come in caring for infants and how God has “fearfully and wonderfully made” each one of us.
During this shift, I was informed of a mom whose water had broken and who was going into labor. Her baby was 22 weeks old. The neonatologist on shift before me had consulted the mother about babies delivered at this age, warning her that her baby was at risk for many severe complications, if the baby survived at all. The mom had agreed to comfort care (i.e. wrapping the baby in a blanket and holding her against her skin) and no life-saving heroics (i.e. no painful procedures), which is the standard of care.
A few hours into the shift, I was told that the baby had been born. I went to the room to evaluate the infant, and to my surprise, this little girl was active. She was moving about and trying to cry.
I looked at the mom, and she nodded her head yes, giving me permission to care for her child. We placed a breathing tube into the baby’s airway and completed the resuscitation that she needed. The little girl was then transferred to the NICU, where she was eventually stabilized.
I did not routinely work at this hospital, but whenever I had a shift there, I would check up on this little girl to see how she was progressing. I was not there when she was discharged from the hospital, but I often wondered how she was doing. Three years later, my question was answered when my coworker sent me a picture of her. The little girl, now three years old, had returned to the hospital to visit my coworker. My coworker described how she walked into the hospital on her own and stood tall beside him. The picture he sent me revealed a beautiful little girl whose smile could melt any heart.
Sadly, this is still not the typical story of infants born at 22+ weeks. Yet God created this little girl for a different plan and purpose, and he preserved her life. The joy of that tiny baby’s cry will always serve as a reminder to me of how precious life is.