How treating obesity led one patient to a one-pound bundle of joy

For eight years, Jamie Baker-Reese and her husband tried to get pregnant. They went to doctor after doctor. The only thing they could find that might explain their fertility struggles was Jamie’s obesity. At 340 pounds, doctors suggested that addressing her weight may be the only option.

Jamie knew exercise alone would not be enough to treat her obesity, and she had tried fad diets. She needed something more to get her health back on track.

In December 2021, Jamie decided to get gastric bypass surgery. Gastric Bypass is a bariatric surgery that restricts the amount of food the stomach can hold while allowing food to bypass part of the stomach and small intestine.

Doctors suggested this would provide the best chance for her to become pregnant. Plus, if the treatment was successful, she would also be happier, healthier, and likely to live longer.

Successful Surgery

Within the first month after the surgery, Jamie lost 50 pounds. To continue her progress, she consistently exercised, ate healthier with the guidance of a dietitian, and drank more water throughout her day. These sustainable lifestyle changes, along with the gastric bypass surgery, helped her continue to lose weight.

Jamie lost 154 pounds and went from a size 26 down to a size 14. She said she was so much happier at 186 pounds.

Less than four months after the surgery, Jamie found out she was pregnant. “It was exciting and scary–but I was hopeful at the same time,” she said.

Up until this point, the pregnancy was going well with no complications. But at 22 weeks, Jamie didn’t feel well and went in for a checkup. What was supposed to be a simple checkup quickly took a turn.

To her surprise, she was in labor—at 22 weeks. The odds of survival for a baby this premature are minuscule, at 15 percent. Her doctors said that usually, babies born at 22 weeks don’t make it.

“You don’t want to hear that,” Jamie said.

Jamie and her husband were scared and overwhelmed. As first-time parents who had been trying to start a family for many years, this was the last thing they wanted to hear. There were so many questions and unknowns.

If the baby did survive, there was also a good chance of other complications. “I was scared he was going to have health problems,” she said.

Overcoming the Odds

Zyaire Graduating

Despite the risks, Jamie and her husband knew they had to try to meet their son and give him every opportunity to thrive.

On the morning of August 5, 2022, Jamie was admitted to the hospital and gave birth to baby Zyaire. Jamie heard a faint whimper when he was born before he was whisked away by doctors to the NICU where he was immediately intubated.

Later that night, Jamie was finally able to see her son in the NICU. She remembers how tiny each preemie in the NICU seemed, especially little Zyaire, weighing one pound and three ounces.

“I only spent maybe three minutes there because I was just so overwhelmed, seeing him like that,” Jamie said.

The first time she held him, she knew everything was going to be okay. “I felt a sigh of relief and I cried for about two hours,” she said.

Zyaire was in the NICU for three months, gaining strength every day. He was eating and growing. But as he was getting bigger, his parents started to notice an unusual, high-pitched sound with every breath he took.

“You could hear him before you could see him. It was loud. It was really loud,” Jamie said.

Zyaire was soon diagnosed with stridor. Stridor, or the wheezing sound they were hearing, was caused by an obstruction somewhere in his trachea (windpipe). Several doctors thought the only resolution was a tracheostomy, a procedure that surgically inserts a tube into Zyaire’s trachea.

Jamie was hopeful that there must be another solution that didn’t require such an invasive surgery, so they wanted to get a second opinion.

Transferring to CHRISTUS Children's

Jamie and her husband decided to transfer Zyaire to CHRISTUS Children’s to see a specialist and learn what their options were.

Taylor Fordham, MD, an otolaryngologist at CHRISTUS Children’s, diagnosed Zyaire with Grade 3 subglottic stenosis, which is a narrowing of the airway below the vocal cords. Dr. Fordham suggested another option to fix this condition: they would perform a series of dilations on his trachea so all the vocal cords could perform as they should.

“They really exhausted all options for my baby,” Jamie said.

Zyaire’s trachea was dilated three times in the operating room, which successfully fixed the stridor. “By the grace of God, after five long months, Zyaire was finally ready to go home without a tracheostomy. He is a ray of sunshine,” Jamie said.

The family is so thankful for the care team at CHRISTUS Children’s. “They went above and beyond for him,” Jamie said. She said she is grateful for the personalized care they received from the whole team, from receptionists to nurses and doctors, and especially Dr. Fordham and his team.

Since being home, Zyaire has been doing well, and he weighs almost 13 pounds. As he gets older, Jamie plans to take him to visit CHRISTUS Children’s so his care team can see how well he is doing, and to thank them for all they did to give him the best life possible.

“He’s doing great, he is a rock star. He is continuing to surprise everybody,” Jamie said.

Now, they are excited to see what Zyaire will do with this incredible life he has been gifted, in large part, due to those who helped him in his earliest days.

To learn more about the NICU at CHRISTUS Children’s, please visit: https://www.christushealth.org/get-care/services-specialties/womens-services/neonatal-intensive-care. 

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