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KJ dressed in his Fourth of July best!

Kayla and her husband, Kevin, have been married for three years this past June. One year after their wedding, they received some wonderful news: Kayla was pregnant with their first child!

Kayla and Kevin’s excitement was pierced with a diagnosis of preeclampsia, which contributed to the premature birth of her son, Kevin Jr. (KJ), born one day short of 26 weeks. KJ and his dad share more than just a name; they are mirror images of one another!

After almost a year and half in the hospital, KJ  finally came home in May with skilled hourly home nursing. To the delight of his parents, KJ is happier than ever and growing rapidly.

Premature Birth

When Kayla was six and half months pregnant, she noticed her ankles were swollen. Her colleagues at the clinic (where Kayla works as a nurse) encouraged her to go seek help. Her obstetrician noted a very high blood pressure, and hospitalized Kayla with preeclampsia.

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KJ with his stuffed toy lion, a gift from the hospital and inspiration behind his animal-themed bedroom.

Kayla was scheduled for a C-section a few days later. When KJ was born, he had two knots in his umbilical cord—and it was wrapped around his neck.

“Everything happened so quickly,” Kayla remembers. “I don’t know if he would have made it if I would have gone full term.”

The next seven months were a blur for Kayla and her husband as they traveled back and forth between their house, work, and the hospital to visit their son. KJ hadn’t made much progress. Eager to bring their son home, Kayla and her husband decided to get a second opinion.

“The ENT specialist told us KJ was breathing through an opening the size of a peephole,” Kayla says.

Choosing the Trach

The specialist recommended a tracheotomy to help KJ breathe.

“It was the hardest decision we ever had to make.” Kayla and her husband had many questions and were fearful that things would get worse. Kayla remembers thinking KJ would have the tracheostomy for the rest of his life.

kaylaquoteArmed with as much information as they could gather, KJ’s parents decided to move forward after learning the trach would help KJ to grow and gain strength.

Immediately following the procedure, KJ flashed his parents a huge smile and Kayla and her husband knew they had made the right decision.

“He wasn’t even fully recovered and he was so happy.” Kayla continues, “We had never seen him smile before.” Following the procedure, KJ also started sleeping through the night and enjoying the company of family and friends.

The next 10 months were spent transitioning KJ to a home ventilator due to his dependence on mechanical ventilation. Then, overcoming the next hurdle: KJ began having feeding and reflux issues. After g-tube placement and a successful Nissen fundoplication surgery, KJ surprised his parents and was finally ready to come home (with skilled hourly home nursing!).

Coming Home

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Kayla and KJ an hour before he was finally discharged from the hospital!

“It moved so fast,” Kayla began. “The day we brought KJ home, he acclimated so quickly. He was really enjoying himself!”

Now that KJ has been home for two months, Kayla and her husband are really getting to know their son.

“He’s a complete joy. You never really know who they are until you get home, and he’s learning at such a quick pace!” Kayla proclaims.

Kayla explains that it was a little strange to have nurses in their home at first, but now she sees it as a blessing. Kayla is able to be KJ’s mom instead of his nurse. Kayla takes advantage of being Mom by reading and playing with KJ, and educating his nurses about how to best care for him.

“You don’t have to have a medical background to advocate for your child and educate your nurses—you can teach them how your child likes to bathe, play, and communicate.”

Choosing to be “Better”

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Kayla is very interactive with KJ and encourages her nurses to do the same!

Kayla and her husband are very active in the church. Their strong faith and community is what has kept their spirits up during the difficult days.

“We were anxious and scared at first, but we stayed positive through lots of prayer,” Kayla mentions.

They encourage each other to take inventory of every blessing. Kayla explains, “My family taught me that I have only two options: I can be bitter or I can be better. Every day, I choose to be better.”

One of their many blessings is their strong support system. Kayla’s mom lives 10 minutes away and stops by the house often to check on her grandson when Kayla and her husband are at work. KJ’s grandmother also had preeclampsia during her pregnancy with Kayla. Like her son, Kayla was born premature (at 30 weeks).

“It’s something KJ and I share.” Kayla continues, “As a parent, I know we can do this together.”

Kayla and her husband have extremely high hopes for KJ’s future and can’t wait to see more of who he becomes now that he’s home.

“Most of all, we’re all just enjoying him,” Kayla says as her husband nods in agreement.