Lourdes Gives Couple the Hope and Care They Need to Deliver Premature Baby Girl
A 10 percent chance. That is what doctors at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center said were the odds that Amanda and Jeremy Walton’s baby would survive if she were born at that time. Amanda was 23 weeks and five days pregnant then. A full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks. It was the end of June and Amanda was due October 15.
Amanda’s pregnancy was complex. She had developed pre-eclampsia, a condition that usually presents late in pregnancy and causes high blood pressure and protein in the urine. In rare cases, it can lead to eclampsia, which can cause seizures. When the mother is close to the due date, delivery is recommended.
In Amanda’s case, at 23 weeks along, her pre-eclampsia was creating a hostile environment for her as well as her baby. The condition was compromising blood flow to the placenta, minimizing fetal growth and amniotic fluid.
The Waltons knew the odds were not good. But that 10 percent chance was everything to them. “What Lourdes gave us was hope,” says Amanda. “And that was all we needed to fight for our daughter.”
At the time, the Waltons were living on-site at Fort Dix/McGuire Air Force Base where Jeremy was stationed. They came to Lourdes’ hospital in Camden after being transferred from another South Jersey hospital.
“We were at another hospital, and after one of the prenatal tests, they told us there was no hope of our daughter being born alive,” explains Amanda. “They suggested we terminate the pregnancy. It was a rollercoaster ride of emotions. We heard her heartbeat and knew it was strong. As her parents, we told ourselves we were going to do everything to protect her. The hospital told us there was nothing more they could do and discharged me. We wanted other options.”
That is when the Waltons came to Our Lady of Lourdes and met with the perinatal and neonatal teams, including Dr. Daniel Berger, obstetrician and gynecologist at Lourdes. “While the situation was poor, we felt we should give Amanda a chance,” says Dr. Berger. “To give the baby the best chance of surviving, we waited until as long as we could before delivering the baby. With a premature baby on the cusp of viability, every extra day possible in utero counts.”
Baby Morgan Walton was delivered by cesarean section July 9, at 25 weeks and six days gestation. She weighed 1 pound, 1.7 ounces and was 11 inches long.
“We really tried to prepare ourselves,” says Amanda. “What if she wasn’t born alive? We knew we wanted to see her and hold her no matter what.”
What came next completely surprised Amanda. “I wasn’t ready for it, but Dr. Berger lifted the baby out of me and I heard her cry. It was overwhelming. I didn’t expect it. Her cry sounded like a newborn kitten. I was so grateful.”
From that point, Amanda says she and Jeremy understood everything was out of their control. They just prayed Morgan would be ok. She was taken to the Lourdes Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
“The first 72 hours are the most critical,” says Dr. Berger. “Being born so early can come with many complications. Our wonderful NICU team took over and began to guide the baby through the rough road of prematurity.”
“Baby Girl Walton was born so tiny–weighing just over 1 pound and only 25 weeks gestation,” says Dr. Margaret Fernandes, Chief of Neonatology at Lourdes. “She only had a 10 percent chance of survival. We worked hard to give her a fighting chance.”
“Every day, we would hold our breath and pray for no setbacks,” says Amanda. “We couldn’t hold her, and that was hard. But as the days went by, we watched her grow. We saw her ears developing, we saw her gain weight and eventually we saw her work her way off the ventilator and breathe on her own. Morgan kept proving to us that she was a fighter.”
The NICU team continued giving their support every day. “Baby Girl Walton was so tiny and fragile,” remembers NICU nurse Sandy Hafycz. “She needed an intensive type of care. We worked to do all we could so she could grow strong and healthy. It was a tough journey.”
“It was the hope and care that the Lourdes team provided that got us through emotionally,” says Amanda. “Because of their support, we knew that our baby was in the best hands. We knew they would fight for her just as we would and they’d do everything they could for us. Our family was hours away, but through it all, I truly felt like the Lourdes team was our extended family.”
The journey for Morgan lasted until November 28. She was discharged to the Waltons weighing 7 pounds, 15 ounces. She has been happy and healthy ever since.
“We now have a beautiful 5-year-old daughter,” says Amanda. “She is in kindergarten and perfect in every way.”
“I am so glad that Morgan has done so well,” says Dr. Fernandes. “Her story gives hope to other families and makes our team of physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists grateful.”
Morgan recently asked her mom to visit the place where she was born. Amanda took her daughter to Lourdes and visited with Dr. Berger and the teams of the neonatal and maternity units.
Says NICU nurse Sandy Hafycz, “It’s such an overwhelming feeling to see Morgan as a NICU graduate. It brings tears to my eyes to see her healthy and strong. Our team feels as though we have done something good when we see a graduate return. It’s truly special.”
“It was very touching for our staff to see Amanda today–as a healthy and beautiful little girl,” says Dr. Berger. “I’m proud of our team for working so hard to give Morgan a chance and for giving the Waltons the hope and care they needed. I’m thrilled to see how Morgan has grown happy and healthy. This is the result of exemplary teamwork, hope and a child’s perseverance. Often, we all work so very hard with complex situations and it is wonderful to see a beautiful little girl thrive as a result.”
The Waltons have since moved to Watertown, New York. But they say they will never forget the Lourdes team. “This girl is our world,” adds Amanda. “She is everything to us. We will be eternally grateful to the Lourdes team for giving our baby a chance.”