A community of caregivers helped save baby Milo’s life.
Diagnosed at 18 weeks pregnant, Abby Moreno heard the words that every new mother fears: there’s something wrong with your unborn baby.
Baby Milo had a hole about three inches in diameter near his belly button, allowing his small and large intestines to extend outside his tiny body. This birth defect, known as Gastroschisis, restricted his growth so much that he only ranked in the second percentile on the growth chart for his gestational age. Abby was put on bed rest with frequent appointments to check on Milo’s development.
At 35 weeks, Milo was in distress and doctors decided to induce labor. He was born weighing just 4 lbs and 5.8 oz.
“I was terrified,” Abby says. “The hole was so large it almost overwhelmed him. I gave him a kiss and he was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).” Milo’s intestines were wrapped in a plastic silo to prevent their exposure to air and germs until he could undergo surgery at one week old. “His surgery was the longest three and a half hours of my life,” his mother says.
While the surgery was successful, Milo’s intestines were slow to function, so he remained in the NICU. Milo faced his second hurdle, when at about eight weeks old, he contracted a serious infection that can quickly prove fatal.
“Most of the time they discover the infection because the baby’s stomach becomes hard and red, but Milo’s was already like that because of his surgery,” Abby says. “One of the nurses just felt that something was wrong, so they tested him and caught it before it could do any damage. That’s just how good they are.”
Care for the whole family
Milo went on to spend a total of 79 days in the McLane Children’s NICU.
Life in the NICU became the new normal for Abby. “I would spend the whole day in the NICU with Milo,” she says. “I learned to cross-stitch just to pass the time.”
Although no parent wants their baby to be in the NICU, Abby says the staff and other parents going through the same thing made the experience more bearable. From greeting her with a smile, to keeping her informed about Milo’s care, to even knowing which of Milo’s blankets were her favorites, the NICU staff worked to care not only for Milo, but for Abby and her family as well.
“They laughed with us, held me when I cried, and celebrated with us when Milo reached any sort of milestone,” Abby says. “They took photos of him at night when I wasn’t there so that I didn’t miss anything. The child life specialist would ask about our older children and bring in books for them because she knew Milo’s health affected our entire family. One of our primary nurses even came in on her day off to say goodbye when he was discharged.”
Complications from his early birth and some lasting effects from Gastroschisis brought Milo back to the hospital six times during his first year of life. This month will mark the first anniversary of his last stay in the hospital. Now a healthy two year- old, he loves to swim, look at books, eat pizza, and wrestle with his older brothers.
“Looking at him now, you wouldn’t know any of this had ever happened,” his mother says. “I used to think it would never end, but those three months were just a blip in his life.”
Although the family now lives in Dallas, Milo continues see his doctors at McLane Children’s in Temple and visit the staff who cared for him in the NICU. “I feel like they really know and care about Milo,” Abby says. “I used to see parents bring their older children back to visit the NICU staff and thought I would never do that, but I do. They really became like an extended family.”
Made possible by philanthropy
During Milo’s hospital stay, Abby saw the effects of philanthropy in the NICU. “You can just tell donors’ investments are going to a good place,” she says. “The staff take care of their resources and are very appreciative of what they have.”
“When you have a child in the NICU, it’s not just your baby—it’s a piece of your heart that you leave behind every day,” Abby says. “It’s humbling to think there are people who care enough about others to make donations to this wonderful NICU. It saved Milo’s life. I don’t know who they are, but I can’t thank them enough.”