Life Is Fragile. Handle With Prayer.
The excitement of welcoming a new child soon turned to worry and fear when Libby started telling the nurses and doctors that she could not breathe.
Jacob and Libby Eubank of Lubbock were overjoyed to learn they were pregnant with their second child. Their excitement grew when they knew they were having a boy to round out their little family.
“We already had a little girl, so knowing we were having a little boy was just perfect,” said Jacob. “I would have been happy with a little girl, too, but deep down, I was ecstatic about having a boy.”
Libby’s pregnancy went well. There were no complications, and she sailed through it. Everything was going as planned, including scheduling Libby for an induction on September 8.
After arriving at the hospital, doctors gave Libby some labor-inducing medication. Soon afterward, Libby’s water broke. It was the moment Jacob and Libby had been waiting for – the arrival of their son who they had named Huxley.
The excitement soon turned to worry and fear when Libby started telling the nurses and doctors that she could not breathe. She ended up needing an emergency C-section and Huxley needed to be intubated right away. At that moment, Jacob’s world came crashing down on him. There were complications during the delivery and Libby did not make it through.
“I remember them taking me out of the room because Libby was struggling. They tried to start her heart several times, but she wasn’t responding,” remembers Jacob. “I was told she had an amniotic embolism which is a super rare condition that can come at delivery.”
While processing this devastating news, Jacob was told Huxley’s life was also in jeopardy.
Doctors determined that he had an abnormal umbilical cord – something doctors did not spot on Libby’s last sonogram. Regardless of whether Libby had survived or not, Huxley would have been born with some issues.
Huxley was admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the hospital in their hometown of Lubbock, located in northwest Texas. His physician was fairly sure that he would eventually need to be placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a process where a machine pumps and oxygenates a patient’s blood outside the body, allowing the heart and lungs to rest. The hospital in Lubbock was not equipped to handle ECMO so preparations were being made for Huxley to be transported to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio (CHofSA) as quickly as possible.
“He was teetering on life or death and was critical,” remembers Jacob. “I told the doctors to do whatever they had to do to save him.”
The next thing he knew, Jacob and Huxley were on a jet plane headed for San Antonio. With every breath he took, Jacob prayed his son would survive. He could not bear the thought of losing both his wife and his son.
When they arrived at CHofSA, the physicians, including Dr. Maria Pierce, were upfront with Jacob and told him exactly what was going on. Jacob remembers how they did not sugarcoat things for him, but at the same time, promised to do everything they could to save his little boy. Jacob did not leave his boy’s side for a moment, often forgoing sleep and meals.
Huxley’s lungs and pulmonary artery were in bad shape. He was sick in the womb, and the trauma of his mother needing an emergency C-section had just been too much for him.
The doctors were worried about Jacob and ordered him to get some sleep. Before he left, Dr. Sowmya Mohan warned Jacob that Huxley might need to be placed on ECMO that night. Jacob signed the paperwork giving his consent and then left to get some much-needed sleep.
“When I left that night, I was pretty freaked out. I remember seeing Huxley’s roommate on the ECMO machine and it was really hard to watch, and I could see how scared the parents were sitting there,” said Jacob. “But, when I came back early the next morning, Huxley was not on the machine. I was relieved.”
Miraculously, it was at that point that Huxley started to show improvement. He became stronger and showed signs of healing. There was a glimmer of hope.
But he was not out of the woods. While he did not have to go on ECMO, his lungs were still very sick, and his pulmonary artery was not functioning well. He was on a ventilator and multiple medications.
“The hard part was that I wanted answers, but the doctors didn’t know why he was so sick,” said Jacob. “Slowly, though, he was making progress and getting better. His body just finally decided, you know, I want to live.”
Jacob remembers watching his son throughout the day and night and the nurses telling him he could touch Huxley with one finger and not his entire hand and that he had to be extremely quiet as to not upset Huxley’s care.
“At that point, his body needed to focus on healing and nothing else. They even had his ears covered and muffled and his eyes blocked. They didn’t want anything to stimulate him,” said Jacob.
Knowing that his son was in the best possible hands at CHofSA, Jacob made the six-hour trip back and forth to Lubbock to check on his 4-year-old daughter, Hadley.
“I left to see my daughter, but I knew Huxley was in good hands. These nurses, especially Katie and Becky, and the doctors have a passion for what they do. And they care. You can see it by the way they treat their patients,” said Jacob.
After one of his trips to Lubbock to attend his wife’s funeral, Jacob returned to CHofSA to find Huxley no longer on a ventilator. It was a huge milestone for a baby who had spent most of his short life connected to tubes. Jacob was about to leave for the night when Katie came over and asked if he wanted to hold Huxley.
“I finally got to hold Huxley for the first time. I held him for an hour and it was the best feeling in the world,” remembers Jacob.
The very next day the news kept getting better and better. “It was a snowball of good news. He just started progressing faster and faster,” explained Jacob.
Not long after, Dr. Pierce and the rest of the team at CHofSA felt like Huxley was finally ready to go home to Lubbock. Out of an abundance of caution, they thought it was best for Huxley to spend a little more time at the hospital there, just to make sure everything was OK.
They kept Huxley for a few days, and soon after, he was reunited with his big sister and his dad. Huxley was in the NICU at CHofSA for three weeks.
“Hadley was over the moon to have her baby brother home. She’s smitten with him and loves to help,” said Jacob. “She likes to feed and burp him, and she’s really quick to get the pacifier for him if he’s sad.”
Today, Huxley is doing great. He has gained weight and does what normal babies do, a beautiful site for his dad to see after spending long days and nights at Huxley’s bedside in the NICU.
Life changed on a dime for Jacob, Hadley, and little Huxley, but together they are finding their way thanks to the enormous support they receive from their family. Jacob knows his wife is looking down on them and to her he would say, “We miss you and we love you and we’re doing great.”
Every day Jacob says he says a prayer for the team at CHofSA and is eternally grateful to them for saving his son. “I pray for those doctors and nurses every night. It’s amazing what they do. They are just amazing human beings,” he said.