Small Beginnings: Parents sacrifice to see their ‘premies’ prevail
10th February 2014 · 0 Comments
By Nayita Wilson
From conception to delivery, no two pregnancies are alike. The same can be said for life after birth, especially in cases of prematurity.
Dr. Tyler Sexton of Mobile, Ala., is a prime example. A pediatrician who specializes in hyperbaric medicine, Sexton was born very early at 28 weeks and diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Physicians had little hope that he’d survive infancy, but he did, and he’s working towards a long-term goal of servicing chronically ill children.
“I can say ‘I know how you feel and mean it,’” Sexton said.
With advances in science and technology, premature babies born today are in a better position to live and not develop cerebral palsy, Sexton said.
On the flip side, conditions that could remain with individuals who are born prematurely, including difficulties with: feeding, sensory functions, muscular and skeletal development, developmental milestone and hygiene.
Sexton can relate. He’s overcome 16 surgeries, being bound to a wheel chair and leg braces, learning how to care for himself and other milestones. He was married recently and has co-authored a book, God Bless These Little Legs, with his mother Lisa Sexton, chronicling their shared experience in Tyler’s journey.
Yet, he lives in pain every day as a result of the cerebral palsy.
Lisa said of her son: “I knew he was smart, and I knew he had dreams. . . and I knew he wanted to do the things that his little body wouldn’t allow him to do.”
She said it was the faith and perseverance of the entire Sexton family that have sustained them on this journey.
Lisa shares the hope of other mothers who face hurdles and who have sacrificed life as usual to see their children grow and develop come what may.
In 2004, Kelly Broussard of Marrero, La., gave birth to twin boys Jordan and Jaylan 32 weeks into the pregnancy. The early delivery marked the end of the uphill battle she fought throughout the pregnancy on account of recurring contractions, which resulted in mandatory bed rest.
When the twins were born, Jordan weighed six pounds, seven ounces; Jaylan was a little lighter at five pounds, 10 ounces. Aside from vomiting after every meal, their first year, Broussard said her boys were healthy babies.
As they grew, Jaylan developed health conditions with his ear and nose. By the time he was three, he struggled with congestion and was diagnosed with asthma at the age of four. The asthma worsened year by year, and Jaylan spent many days in the hospital.
The severity of the asthma forced Broussard to miss work frequently, and she was eventually asked to resign from her job with the state of Louisiana in 2008.
“I was hurt because I had been there almost ten years,” she said. “It put me in a bind. I couldn’t help it if my son was sick.”
Today, the twins are nine years old. Jaylan has transitioned off of numerous medications, including steroids and dreams of joining the military. His mother continues to monitor his health and diet on a daily basis, and Broussard is to a point where she can reenter the work force.
Broussard said physicians have on numerous occasions told her that Jaylan’s asthma could tie to his premature birth. And while Jordan suffers with asthma too, she said it is not severe.
“My babies are strong. Even though Jaylan has been sick, Jaylan pushes through everything. It doesn’t bother him like it bothers me,” she said. “Jordan is super smart. Jaylan is still very active through it all. I love them. I just want them to be happy and strong.”
Loving Lauren to Life
“The doctor was going over the medical report, and she kept saying 2.0,” recalls New Orleans resident Cassandra Wiltz of the day her daughter Lauren was released from a 9-month stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. She later learned that the doctor was referencing the size of tubes used to care for and stabilize Lauren when she was born.
“Medically, if you have to use something less than four inches, you are doomed,” Wiltz said.
But there was something about Lauren who was born at 25 weeks (three months early). She was one pound at birth. Her skin hadn’t developed, nor had the pecks come in on her chest.
“She (the doctor) took a chance, and look what that chance got her,” Wiltz said.
Lauren is now seven years old. She’s a socialite and a dancer, according Wiltz. Her raspy voice—the result of a tracheotomy she had when she was born—causes her to stand out among her peers. Developmentally, she makes good grades in school and has sessions with a speech pathologist.
All this from a young girl who spent the first three years of her life incubated in her home, on feeding tubes and oxygen.
“Judging from where she’s come from, she’s excellent,” Wiltz said knowing that bringing Lauren into the world was a challenge.
During the pregnancy, Wiltz struggled with low blood platelet levels, kidney issues, Lupus and other conditions. A bout of high blood pressure led to an emergency C-section and Lauren’s early birth.
After Lauren was born, Wiltz’s life changed rapidly. Days after the delivery, the new mother suffered from a pulmonary embolism the size of a golf ball, which nearly took her life.
Lauren underwent more than 15 surgeries. Wiltz lost her job. Hospital bills skyrocketed, and transition included welcoming nurses in the home for three years to help care for Lauren.
“It changes your life. It’s not the dream. It’s not what you see on TV. I had to find a new normal,” Wiltz said.
That normal brought about an outpouring of support from the family, members of the Wiltz’s church and friends, and it helped strengthen the bond between Wiltz and her husband, Derrick.
Derrick said: “We will always remember the rough times, because in always remembering the struggle, we will never cease to be grateful for the things God has done in her (Lauren) life, our marriage, and the inspiration she is and has been to many . . .”
Small Beginnings is a multi-part series that takes an in depth look at prematurity.
This article originally published in the February 10, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.