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Two Kansas Moms Forge a Friendship Over the Birth of Micropreemie Babies

BY ERIC ADLER

eadler@kcstar.com

As soon as Kaylee Hurt heard that Ashley Taylor was in the hospital and rushed there only 25 weeks into her first pregnancy, the former schoolmate felt compelled to act.

She prayed. She reached out.

“Hang in there. Stay strong,” Kaylee recalled messaging a frightened Ashley on Facebook in late February. “If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to message me or call.”

As the mother of a micropreemie herself — a daughter, Kaydee June, born nearly four months early at a minuscule 1 pound and 6 ounces in 2013 — Kaylee understood what might lie ahead.

Because they are born exceedingly premature (before about 28 weeks of gestational age), micropreemie babies are also exceedingly fragile. They are the smallest of the small, accounting for less than 1 percent of the nearly 4 million babies born each year in the United States. They generally weigh no more than 1,000 grams, or 2.2 pounds.

But because of steady advances in medical care, micropreemies are now surviving at, and even progressing forward from, ever-younger gestational ages.

“Initially, we went down to about 1,000 grams, and then it was 750 grams, and then it was 500. Now it’s 400 grams, but they have a lot of complications,” said neonatologist Katherine Schooley, who cares for micropreemies at Overland Park Regional Medical Center. “We go down to about 22 weeks of gestation now. We only just started treating those tiny babies about a year or two ago.”

Born at 625 grams, Kaydee had spent 280 days isolated in neonatal care units, first at Overland Park and then at Children’s Mercy Hospital. At birth, her head was barely bigger than an orange. Her hands and feet were like jelly beans.

Ventilation that kept her alive would lead to lung damage known as bronchopulmonary dysplasia. She was fed by a tube. Laser eye surgery corrected retinal damage from prematurity. Kaydee briefly “coded,” dying in the NICU before being revived at Overland Park and sent to surgery.

“That was the longest night of my life,” Kaylee recalled.

There’s no doubt that the earlier infants are born, the more problems they have. Every week an infant remains in its mother’s womb dramatically increases the health of the fetus.

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