They say the best things in life come in small packages, although a blessing, premature babies come into this world extremely small and have to fight to survive. We were lucky to capture an impromptu reunion at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls with a Milbank family who spent nearly 3 months with their new baby in the NICU.
Most people don't look forward to going to the hospital, but for Teresa and Aaron Meister and their baby boy Dylan of Milbank, this trip back was a joyous one. It's just a friendly visit to show off how well Dylan is doing. Dylan was born December 20th 10 and a 1/2 weeks early. We first met them a month after Dylan had been in Avera McKennan's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. He stayed there for 70 days.
Teresa says, "The first time you walk in and see all the tubes and wires and machines and alarms going off it's really overwhelming. It's not like the picture you see on TV with the happy mom snuggling and cuddling their baby. I didn't even know if we were allowed to touch him. It was a really scary experience."
Babies born as premature as Dylan have underdeveloped lungs, intestines, are prone to heart conditions, they can't regulate their own body temperature and need a feeding tube because their suck/swallow reflex isn't developed.
Teresa says, "He does have chronic lung disease from being oxygen dependent, but they think that is something he'll outgrown by the time he is two."
Dylan has changed a lot since we met him. He weighed 2 pounds 13 ounces when he was born, a little less than a bottle of water. Now he weighs 8 pounds and is happy to be home.
Neonatologist Dr. Fernando Soares at Avera McKennan says, "That's what we strive for. Dylan was here for almost 3 months, he was born 3 months early. He stayed in our state-of-the-art incubator and went home virtually with no medical support other than vitamins. We are very glad to learn he is doing well."
Coming back is a welcomed reunion.
Teresa says, "It's very exciting. It was good to see them (NICU nurses) Aaron and I were talking about how hard their jobs are because they basically nurture and bring these babies to life and then say good bye. It's a hard job and there were a lot of tears when we left. It was nice to come back to all those familiar faces. They are like extended families to us."
So often my photojournalist Jeff Cleland and I also only see these babies when they are in such critical condition so it's exciting for us to share this happy ending too which is really only the beginning.
Dylan also has a heart murmur that they will continue to have monitored, but right now he is no worse for wear from everything he has gone through.