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From Newlyweds to the NICU: The Story of Baby Livingston

Newlyweds Sydney and Patrick Ferris faced their first challenge as husband and wife after Sydney began experiencing symptoms of preterm labor. At just 27 weeks and 4 days gestation, Livingston arrived weighing two pounds and five ounces. Fortunately, he was in a NICU that offered a 100% human milk diet. This is the story of how Sydney and Patrick became a family of three and how baby Livingston thrived in the NICU.

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Sydney: We live in Napa Valley and we really wanted to be married here in Napa on our property.

Patrick:  It was very special lovely day. We did a lot of work to get the property all ready for it.

Sydney: My health during the time of my pregnancy and planning for the wedding was fine, although I did have a lot going on. I was working full-time going to law school, but the doctor had no concerns about my health up until that time. The Friday, a full week after Thanksgiving, I went into the doctors and they took my blood pressure and he looked at me and he looked very concerned and then he told me that they need to do a stress test on the baby- that my blood pressure was very high. He was very concerned about my sudden weight gain and my swelling, and that was our first indication that there was any concerns. And the doctor said you know you probably won't go full term, you might just go till 34 or 36 weeks. And so that Tuesday we went back to the doctor and he had already gotten all the lab work back and basically he didn't even look at me. He said that we needed to go to the hospital immediately - at that point everything just started happening really quick.

Patrick: They gave us a shot of steroid and they said they were hoping to get the baby to go another three weeks.

Sydney: At that point they were monitoring me and they said they really have to balance the health of the baby versus my health and they  made the decision, less than 24 hours after getting to the hospital, that the baby had to come immediately because my platelets were dropping, my blood pressure was rising, and the baby wasn't doing great.

Patrick: I expected, you know, a couple more weeks or something and then when they told us that it was happening right then and we needed to talk about what would happen if you know worst case scenario, and you know, Sydney were to pass. And Sydney told me that I needed to stay with the baby no matter what happened.

Sydney: I believe it was several doctors, it felt like ten doctors came rushing in and and said we have to take the baby right away. The anesthesiologist came in and then they just started talking to us about all these complications that could happen-blood transfusions.  I would say that it was very traumatic for both of us doing that end-of-life discussion. I don't think its anything any newlywed couples prepared to do. So Livingston was born at 27 weeks and four days right after he was born. He was taken immediately to the NICU and Patrick went with him.

Patrick: He came out kicking and screaming, so they they took him into the NICU and they hooked him up and got him on the CPAP machine and then they had me hold him there for awhile and so he actually did really good for the first two or three days before he started to struggle a little bit while he was in the NICU.

Sydney: He had to go on the ventilator to be able to breathe better, he had to have some sedation and so that was pretty scary. He wasn't able to breathe on his own and he was having trouble processing any of the, you know, many procedures that they were doing. He was having a hard time maintaining his oxygen and the heart rate and I was still dealing with my own health and getting stable, so it was definitely a very emotional time.

Patrick: Right after birth, while Sydney was recovering for a week or so, I had the receptionist in the NICU, was calling me "the milkman" because I was running over and getting milk from Sydney and bringing it back.

Sydney: One issue with preemies is to get them to gain weight quickly and that will help them to breathe better, to be able to maintain their temperature. And so they wanted to start giving him breast milk, so he was gaining well on that, but they did find that he started to struggle a little bit with weight gain because he had this PDA in his heart that was open, that was making it, he was breathing really hard so he's burning so many calories breathing.

So we did a late medication treatment to treat that and it worked without needing surgery, which we were very thankful for. So the dietitian, the doctor, the neonatologist, and the lactation consultant said that they really needed to add more calories, fat, and protein to Livingston's nutrition, but without adding more volume and so they presented the idea of adding Prolact+ to my breast milk and giving that to him. And that it would help him gain weight and every morning they would calculate the volume versus the nutrition that he needed and decide what how many calories of Prolact+ they would add to my breast milk.

After that he continued on the Prolact+ with breast milk and then he was really gaining weight. He did not have any sepsis and he did not have any NEC which is a disease that affects the stomach and happens a lot with preemies in regards to nutrition, because parts of their intestine are not working. And I think that there's a lot of factors that came into play with Livingston and how great he's doing, but I think one of them is that he was on human breast milk solely for as long as he was.

A lactation consultant talked to me about the reason that we offered Prolact+ until 35 weeks is because we know that babies do so much better on it and we see that there's a lot less instances of having some of these serious complications like NEC because they're only on breast milk. One of the things that we had researched after having a premature baby is that they need all of these antibodies from breast milk that they don't get during the last trimester, and he could get those through breast milk in a way he couldn't through a cow's milk-based formula, so we really wanted him to stay on Prolact+ for as long as he could, so he could continue to gain weight and progress. Yeah so Livingston, as you can see, is very healthy baby boy. Now I let him know every day that he's such a blessing to us and is such a little miracle and I just hope that he continues to progress the way that he has. He's amazing.

Patrick: And I think at this point he's right on track just like any other any other baby boy