Graduation day for the littlest patient; Micro preemie heads home

Caring for a micro preemie – from an incredibly early birth to graduation. Complete with cap and onesie and all the kudos doctors, nurses and parents could muster. Now at seven pounds he’s stepping out and leaving his home since birth for a new adventure.

Just like mom would play for Liam in the womb – a music therapist entertains him, both relaxing and stimulating the baby. He responds now – a far cry from the first sounds he heard when he was born 16 weeks early.

Dr Brett Galley, Advocate Children’s Hospital neonatologist: “Liam was born at 24 weeks, which is on the edge of survival for pre-term babies. Initially, his biggest problem was breathing so he needed some help with a breathing tube and a breathing machine and some medicines to help his lungs.”

Weighing only one pound, nine ounces - -doctors knew this baby needed more time in the womb. He had other ideas. So, in Advocate Children’s Hospital’s micro preemie program – they mimicked conditions Liam would have experienced.

Dr Brett Galley: “We have all these technologies, but it’s not just having those technologies, it’s how we apply them to the babies and doing it in an appropriate manner. By controlling the environment we’re able to focus on getting the correct amount of light for these babies. Keeping the noise to appropriate levels. That minimizes the stress and the pain to the baby, and, really importantly protects their sleep cycle as well.”

Liam’s mother says every little accommodation made a big difference.

Katie Rauer, Liam’s mother: “From the very beginning we did containment, which is somebody acts as the uterus because they are so little. So, enclosing them with hands just helps their comfort, mimics the uterus, and it makes them more comfortable for assessments.”

He couldn’t breathe on his own or eat, monitored 24 hours a day, and always wrapped in love, now after 111 days – he is heading home: no tubes, no wires, no respiratory support and drinking from a bottle – this baby is a model for success.

Dr Galley: “We don’t always see the results of this new model of care. What we’re really hoping is that these really pay dividends when the baby is four years old, five years old, 20 years old and beyond.”

Katie Rauer: “It’s a feeling I’ve been waiting for, 111 days I’ve seen so many babies leave. Never thought we’d get here!”

Liam was a twin and the family is mourning the loss of Liam’s sister Christine Grace, while cherishing every moment with their baby boy, tonight home for the very first time.