These heartwarming photos show the moment two sisters met their baby brother for the first time after he spent 264 days in neo-natal intensive care. Bella Hansen, 5, her three year-old sister Zoe had to wait that long to hug sibling Christopher after he was born 13 weeks premature and desperately under-developed.
Christopher was born weighing less than 400g (13.6oz) in Las Vegas, Nevada, in August 2019. He arrived with the skin on his eyelids fused shut, with doctors warning his parents, Joseph, 30 and Aricka, 34, that their newborn son had a low chance of survival, and that if he did he ran the risk of living with severe disabilities.
But after almost 300 days in hospital the spirited infant, who has been nicknamed ‘Christopher the courageous’ by his dad, has finally been able to go home with his family after defying the odds to survive.
Vehicle manufacturing dealer Joseph, said: ‘When I first saw him he was the smallest human I have ever seen in my life. Words can’t describe how tiny he was and it didn’t seem possible for him to sustain life like that.
‘They rated his chances of survival really low and said he’d probably have some serious problems if he did survive. We really did prepare for the worst and were prepared to lose our son.
‘Nine months later and here we are at home, which feels so amazing and has been a surreal experience. Our daughters had to wait until he came home before being able to meet him, so it’s been great for them to be able to play with him and love him.
‘They have loved him so much from day one. It’s been hard work and very exhausting, but it’s all been worth it for what we have together as a family now.’
Stay-at-Home mom, Aricka, fell pregnant with Christopher in March 2019 and wasn’t due to give birth until November. But unbeknown to both the couple and midwives, for six months of the pregnancy Christopher was being starved of the nutrients he needed to grow properly due to complications relating to blood flow in his mother’s womb.
Joseph said doctors knew Christopher was not growing at the usual rate but had ‘no idea why’ he was developing slower than most other pre-natal babies. It wasn’t until August 27 during a routine appointment, that doctors at University Medical Center, Las Vegas, spotted the problem and admitted Aricka to hospital for monitoring.
Tests showed the lack of sufficient blood flow was causing Christopher to suffer regular heart palpitations and on August 29, doctors decided to deliver Christopher by emergency cesarean section to give him the best chance of survival. He was born after only 26 weeks and one day of gestation weighing 385g.
‘There was low blood flow from the placenta and that meant his body wasn’t getting all of the nutrients it needed’, said Joseph.
He added: ‘Christopher kept passing out in the womb and his heart kept stopping. If he was to have stayed in the womb he would probably have died.
‘He had a better chance of survival outside of the womb, so that’s what we decided to do. He was so unbelievably tiny and was honestly smaller than any baby I’ve ever seen before.
‘They told us he could be blind for life, may end up severely disabled with cerebral palsy and might never walk, all because of how prematurely he was born. That was really scary to hear.
‘We were so happy he was alive, of course, but to be honest we didn’t know what the future would hold. The first couple of weeks were touch and go.’
From birth Christopher was cared for in a sterile neonatal intensive care unit as doctors worked around the clock to save his life. He was unable to even open his eyes until he was three weeks old and Joseph and Aricka were unable to hold their fragile newborn son for weeks after his birth.
They were thrilled as their son’s health began to rally, with Christopher suffering none of the disabilities doctors warned he was at risk of. The only major complication is chronic lung disease, a condition suffered by many prematurely born babies due to their under-developed lungs, meaning Christopher has been fitted with a tracheostomy tube to help him breathe and is supported by an oxygen supply 24 hours a day.
Christopher’s progress hit a major landmark, at the beginning of May this year, when doctors decided he was finally ready to go home and start family life. Up until the day he went home, May 19, no one had been able to visit Christopher in hospital due to the risk of infection, meaning his grandparents, aunties, uncles and sisters had to wait nine months before being allowed to meet him for the first time.
To get to this point Joseph and Aricka were given weeks worth of medical training for Christopher’s breathing support system and have had their living room transformed into a make-shift hospital ward. But despite the drastic changes, the family are celebrating being finally reunited as one.
Joseph said: ‘My wife did at least five weeks training before we were able to bring him home. It has very much been worth all of the hard work.
‘When I think back to ten months ago I’d never have thought this would have been possible. At one point we were prepared to lose him, yet here he is at home and doing really well.’
If you have overcome adversity to achieve something great or perhaps experienced something amazing, then we’d love to hear from you.
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