A One Pound Wonder
Darla and Travis McGee were ecstatic to learn that Darla was pregnant. While Travis has a daughter from a previous relationship, they were excited to be having a baby together. Given that Darla has polycystic ovarian syndrome and a condition known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia, it was a miracle she was pregnant.
“I really wanted to have my own baby naturally, so I was excited and shocked by the news,” she said.
Her pregnancy started normally. She had routine morning sickness and cravings, but around week 17, the baby, who they would eventually name Barrett, started kicking, causing Darla a lot of pain. The pain was so excruciating that she found it difficult to get out of the recliner.
A few days later, she noticed some fluid leaking and wasn’t sure what it was. Since this was her first pregnancy, she wasn’t sure what to expect, so she scheduled an appointment with her obstetrician. After her doctor did an exam, he instructed her to get dressed immediately because he was sending her to CHRISTUS Children's (CHofSA).
“He told me that my amniotic sac was pushing through my cervix and that I was already dilated – at 20 weeks,” said Darla.
The next thing she knew, Darla was being admitted to CHRISTUS Children's and had surgery to push the amniotic sac back into place and stitch her cervix. Unfortunately, Darla was still leaking fluid despite the surgery, her amniotic sac had ruptured. There was nothing they could do to prevent Baby Barrett from arriving early and Darla knew she needed to stay close since she lived so far way. Darla was able to stay right across the hall from the antepartum unit in the Ronald McDonald House inside the hospital so she could be close when Barrett was ready to be delivered. It was the beginning of November. Baby Barrett’s due date wasn’t until March.
A few short weeks later, Barrett was born on November 28, 2021, weighing only 1.6 pounds. Doctors laid Barrett on Darla’s stomach for about three or four seconds and then quickly whisked him away and put him in an incubator.
“We did hear him cry – a little tiny cry, which was unexpected because they were worried about his lung development,” said Travis. “We were surprised and a little hopeful when we heard him.”
His care team put Barrett in a heating bag to help keep him warm, and much to everyone’s surprise, he was breathing on his own. Eventually, however, doctors would need to intubate him. Besides having to be intubated, Barrett faced other challenges as well. When he would fall asleep, he would sleep so hard that he would stop breathing. To help him, they gave him a dose of caffeine every 24 hours. He also had to have a blood transfusion and needed a peripherally inserted catheter.
After doing some tests, including an echocardiogram, Barrett’s doctors concluded that he had a condition known as patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). The ductus arteriosus is a fetal structure, needed during fetal life, but if it stays open after birth can result in too much blood flow into the lungs. It was decided Barrett’s PDA needed to be surgically closed.
“We had the utmost confidence in the doctors at CHofSA and knew without a doubt that Barrett would be fine,” said Travis. “Our surgeon, Dr. Daniel Nento, assured us he had done more than 3,000 of these surgeries, so we knew he was in good hands.”
On December 22, Dr. Nento, a pediatric cardiovascular surgeon, successfully closed Barrett’s PDA and he did remarkably well.
Barrett went home on March 23 – three days after his original due date. The whole time he was in the NICU, Darla and Travis knew Barrett was in the best possible place.
“Everyone was so reassuring and informative, which was extremely comforting, especially since this was my first pregnancy,” said Darla. “All of the doctors and nurses who cared for Barrett were amazing, and we cannot thank them enough for everything they did.”
Darla is incredibly grateful for Morgan, a nurse who was supportive before Barrett’s delivery. Although Darla was scared, the nurses instilled hope and kept telling her that there was a good chance that Barrett could survive despite his circumstances.
The couple also is thankful for Dr. Ryan Killebrew, Dr. Maria Pierce, Dr. Sowmya Mohan, and Dr. Cheryl Motta. They also grew fond of Barrett’s primary nurses, Melissa and Arlene. Darla remembers how much she enjoyed visiting with Arlene during the night shift when Barrett would receive a bath and the rest of his bedtime routine. Arlene became a trusted friend and confidant for Darla. Melissa was very meticulous with his care, making sure that any changes in Barrett were recognized.
“I also want to recognize the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) because they were incredibly helpful during my journey,” said Darla. “Not only did they let me stay there while I waited for Barrett to come, they also let me stay there for the entire 115 day duration Barrett was in the NICU. I can’t tell you how amazing all of the ladies at the RMH were. They were so caring and made my time in the NICU so much more bearable.”
Since he’s been home, Darla and Travis have enjoyed getting to know their little boy. Slowly but surely, he’s shown them his personality, which has been fun for the entire family. He has routine checkups with his care team at CHRISTUS Children's, including cardiologist, pulmonologist, hematologist, and ophthalmologist to monitor his progress. The outlook for Barrett’s long-term prognosis is bright.
When asked what advice she would give other new moms facing similar situations, Darla said she would tell them that even though it feels like everything is going against them to never give up.
“There is always hope that it will work out. We were fortunate to be at CHofSA, where they went above and beyond to take care of Barrett,” Darla said.
To learn more about The Heart Center at CHRISTUS Children's, visit https://www.christushealth.org/get-care/services-specialties/heart-vascular/pediatric. To learn more about the NICU, please visit: https://www.christushealth.org/get-care/services-specialties/womens-services/neonatal-intensive-care.