Early entry: Sonogram leads to emergency delivery

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 22, 2009

Casey Reeves didn’t need that extra sonogram, she just wanted it.

After seeing a specialist for 27 gestational weeks during which she received a number of sonograms, the Vidalia native’s insurance wouldn’t cover any more of them.

But she wanted a 4-D picture of her baby, and she was willing to pay for it herself.

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So, at 31-weeks pregnant, she woke up, decorated the baby’s room, met her parents with her husband Charlie for lunch and went in to the doctor’s office.

Casey had been seeing the specialist after she lost a baby mid-pregnancy because of complications with the umbilical cord the previous year. A month prior to this visit she had been cleared and released as having a normal pregnancy.

“We were sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, and we said, ‘OK, worst-case scenario — it’s a boy and we’ve already painted the room pink,’” she said.

When they made their way back to the ultrasound room, Casey was a little annoyed because the technician “wouldn’t put it on the cool pictures.”

Instead, “she just kept looking at the normal picture, doing the measurements.”

The first inkling that something wasn’t going right was when the technician started asking questions about why Casey had been released from the specialist, Casey’s mom Christi Welch said.

“Questions like that started to give me an clue that something was wrong,” Welch said.

Finally, the technician looked up and said, “She’s measuring a little small. I’m going to call the doctor.”

The problem, Casey said, was that the technician wouldn’t tell her just how small the baby was measuring.

That’s when the worry began for Casey and Charlie. They had found out that they had lost their other baby at a sonogram session.

While everyone waited for the doctor to get there, “they were all playing it cool,” Casey said. “At one point I left the room for a second and Charlie told my mom, ‘She can’t handle this.’ My dad left the room and went somewhere, probably to pray.”

When the doctor arrived, the Reeves were told that the baby was measuring at 27 weeks — the point at which they had been released from the care of the specialist.

The clinic was located across the street from St. Francis Hospital in Monroe, and the family made the move from the clinic to the hospital via a skywalk.

“They basically told us we are going to put you in a room,” Charlie said.

Casey’s amniotic fluid levels were dangerously low, and the only solution was bed rest — five weeks worth.

“I started planning, but I didn’t really have time to adjust to it psychologically,” Casey said.

“I thought that it didn’t sound like fun but this will be what we have to do.”

Casey’s planning was interrupted, however, when the doctor came in the room and said, “The baby has to be born today.”

The problem was that the umbilical cord had reverse blood flow, so the baby wasn’t getting enough oxygen and wasn’t able to grow.

“The doctor later explained it to me that it’s kind of like taking a fish and setting it on the sidewalk,” Charlie said.

While the medical team prepped Casey for the birth — a Caesarian section — the doctor explained that things would be different than at a full-term birth.

“She said it is not going to be a normal celebration, and she might not even cry. There is going to be a team working on her right away,” Casey said.

The baby did cry, though, and on Jan. 21, 2008, Avery Grace Reeves was born into the world weighing 2.2 pounds, an otherwise healthy micro-preemie.

“The doctors thought that something had to be wrong with her because of the situation, but they said, ‘We can’t find out what is wrong with this baby,’” Casey said.

Charlie snapped pictures of Avery while the team worked on her, and Casey was given a brief glance at the baby from the other side of the operational curtain.

“I looked at her and I said, ‘She’s so beautiful and so tiny,” Casey said. “It was the tiniest head I ever saw in my life.”

The grandparents were waiting anxiously in the hall, and the first glimpse they caught of their granddaughter was when Avery was wheeled past them on her way to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

It wasn’t until the next day that they were allowed to see her, and even then it was a hands-off experience.

“I had never seen a premature baby before, especially not a two-pound one,” Christi said. “Her head was the size of a tennis ball. Everything was perfect except it was in the miniature.”

Casey went home three days after the baby was born, but Avery stayed behind.

And over the next few weeks, there were a few scares.

During her stay at the hospital, Avery lost weight down to 1.9 pounds, and at one point, doctors found a bleed in Avery’s head, but the next day it was gone.

Another day, her kidneys shut down but restarted on their own within 24 hours.

“We had a lot of people praying for us,” Casey said. “One friend started a Facebook group and kept people updated about what was going on. We even had someone in Canada praying.”

The fact that her granddaughter has never really fared for the worse has left Christi in awe.

“Every time I look at her, I just think about the miracles God did,” Christi said. “I’ve read so many stories about other premature babies who were born at the same time as her, and a lot of them aren’t doing nearly as well as she has. I feel like God heard our prayers.”

On March 18, the Reeves were able to take Avery home — one day before Casey’s initial due date.

“We didn’t lose any time,” Casey said.

Since then, the family has followed up with trips to a neurologist and a cardiologist, and she sees an early interventionist for physical therapy.

The family does have to take some precautions, though, because premature babies have suppressed immune systems.

“From November to April — Respiratory Syncytial Virus season — I call it lockdown,” Casey said. “She never goes to a store or a daycare.”

Avery was on a special preemie diet, in which she was fed special food with extra calories. She is slightly behind developmentally, unless you consider her “adjusted age,” Casey said.

The adjusted age is how old a premature baby would be if it was born on schedule, and Casey said that when you take that factor into consideration Avery is right on target.

“Adjusted age is a really big thing with us preemie moms,” she said.

To keep the baby out of daycare, Charlie and Casey have adopted a split schedule for work — Casey works from 7 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. in an administrative job at a bank, and Charlie works from 3 p.m. until midnight as the manager of a call center.

“Basically, I get home and Charlie hands me the baby on the way out the door,” Casey said.

Once the lockdown season ends in April, the family would like to see Avery get involved more in social situations.

“I don’t think that having a world that is just mom and dad is something that is necessarily good,” Casey said.

Looking back a year later, the Reeves see how abrupt the birth of their daughter was, and how little time it took to change their lives forever.

“We were literally eating lunch at Applebee’s at noon, and by 3 p.m. we had a baby,” Charlie said.