‘A little miracle’ 15-ounce infant beats the odds
Allie Berlyn Nichols spent her first Christmas season in leg casts and shielded from the crowds coming to meet Santa Claus.
Her parents are just fine with that, especially since earlier this year doctors weren’t sure if Allie would survive. The six month old had to be delivered at 26 weeks and weighed only 15 ounces, making her a micropreemie.
She was so small her father, Allen, could wrap his wedding ring around her leg.
“She’s a little miracle,” said mom Leigh Nichols, of Gambrills. “The emotional stress of it all, and not knowing if she would survive, was absolutely horrifying.”
They were all concerned about Allie’s lungs and eyesight, but she continued to beat the odds. She is now eight pounds, and doctors don’t expect any long term medical problems.
Photo above: Allen Nichols holds his new daughter, Allie, who was delivered June 1 at 26 weeks and weighing less than one pound. The infant was treated at Anne Arundel Medical Center for about three months before she was discharged.
Allen and Leigh Nichols learned they were going to be parents on Christmas Eve, 2009. The pregnancy went well early on, and Leigh can’t recall having any bouts of morning sickness. Because she was having her first child at 40, she often went in for a variety of medical tests to make sure the baby was growing properly.
When Leigh reached 18 weeks, doctors noted the baby was small. There was a blood flow problem — blood wasn’t getting to the baby, like a garden hose with a kink in it. It was difficult for the blood to get through that kink in the umbilical chord to reach the baby. The Nichols were told that many parents decide to terminate their pregnancies based on that information, but they decided against it. They got a second opinion at Anne Arundel Medical Center.
“There was so much information, it was overwhelming,” said Allen Nichols, 42. “We learned about all of these things that were supposed to happen that didn’t.”
Leigh was given medication to thin her blood, and was placed on bed rest at 24 weeks. The goal was to reach the 30-week point in her pregnancy, but that wasn’t possible. The baby was delivered at 26 weeks – on June 1 – via C-section. The parents hadn’t given much thought of a name because they had been so torn over whether their daughter would survive. At the suggestion of a friend, they combined their first names and came up with Allie.
The infant was treated in AAMC’s NICU, where doctors and nurses tried to balance her diet between intravenous feeding of a formula and breast milk. The goal was to get her off of the formula and onto the breast milk without intestinal problems. Infants can not leave the hospital until they can eat on their own, come out of their isolettes and maintain their own body temperature.
“She had a very successful outcome,” said AAMC neonatologist Suzanne Rindfleisch. “This is a great family that will give her the attention she needs for a long-term outcome. Her progress is really great.”
Allie was able to leave the hospital after three months. She sleeps through the night in her flower-themed room, although she does tend to have problems sleeping during the day. Doctors have advised the parents to keep her away from crowds and children, so she couldn’t have any pictures taken with Santa Claus, or endure a large family dinner. Allie’s only lingering medical issue is the casts she wears on her legs to correct her hip dysplasia.
“What a way to enter into mommyhood, when I was terrified of it to begin with,” said Leigh Nichols. “She’s smiling, she’s eating cereal, she’s found her voice and loves to yell.
“There’s no way to predict the future, but she’s off to a good start.”