It has been a long four months for a Winlaw family with a premature baby, but Indra Greaves has finally come home.
Born at 24 weeks in August, Indra faced some additional hardships right from the start — smoke from forest fires prevented a flight that would have taken her mother to Vancouver to give birth in a hospital fully equipped to deal with babies that premature.
Nikkei Merritt was planning for a December birth when her world was turned upside down with the onset of labour.
West Kootenay hospitals don’t usually deliver babies that early, but after it was determined that no flights would be able to get out, medical staff at Kootenay Lake Hospital in Nelson prepared to deliver the baby.
The parents were informed that there was only a 50 to 60 per cent chance that the baby would survive the birth. But Indra was born alive, placed in an incubator and on a ventilator and a neonatal transport team was called in.
The transport was complicated by the team having to land in Cranbrook, helicopter over to Nelson, take the mother and baby by ambulance back to Cranbrook and then fly to Vancouver.
But against all odds, Indra fought on and after just a short time was gaining weight and strength.
Indra would face many trials and struggles, but miraculously never had to have a surgery.
Poetically, Indra was finally released from the hospital on her original due date, Dec. 10.
“I was very pleased to have it work out that way,” said Merritt.
She said caring for Indra is pretty much like caring for any other newborn.
“She is healthy, no real kind of ongoing issues at this point,” said Merritt.
Born at just 760 grams (one pound, 10.8 ounces), Indra is now over four kilograms (eight pounds, 13 ounces).
Indra has stage-two retinopathy of prematurity, an eye disease affecting preemies, but there is still hope that it will clear up on its own. Meanwhile, Indra has regular checkups to monitor the condition.
She also has a duct in her heart that hasn’t closed, that is being watched by cardiologists.
Indra is being monitored by a team of different specialists as part of BC Children’s Hospital’s premature baby follow-up program.
“It is really great they offer that type of program,” said Merritt. “They are really on top of making sure people are getting those interventions, rather than waiting until there is an issue that comes up.”
She also is being watched over by the same Nelson pediatrician that was on hand for her birth.
Merritt said the hardest part of the long hospital stay was being separated from her partner and other children.
“Spending weeks of time all on my own was very hard.”
The family was only able to visit one week out of each month.
“That wouldn’t have been possible without the fundraising my friend helped us do,” added Merritt. referring to a GoFundMe campaign that raised over $6,000 to assist the family with expenses.
“We are super grateful for that.”
Merritt’s partner, David Greaves, was able to return to work recently, and the family is thankful for the accommodations his employer made.
“We feel more in touch with the community than we did before,” said Merritt. “It can kind of be isolating, having children. But people have brought us food, the GoFundMe donations, someone has offered to plow our driveway.
“Until you are on the receiving end of it, you don’t really know exactly how much people care about you.”
The family hopes to give some of that generosity back to other families that may be in the same situation in the future.
They have already begun that task by participating in several premature baby studies, hoping the knowledge gained will help other babies in the future.
“I am sure there were a lot of things that we benefited from through previous studies,” said Merritt.
“It is pretty amazing,” she said. “Everything has just sort of mellowed out, and I am not really too worried about too much at this point.”