Hunter’s Story

Hunter Nickerson holding his hospital baby photo

My husband and I knew that having children would be an uphill climb.  The doctors had been telling me for years that my chances of ever conceiving and carrying a baby full term were less than 5% with in vitro fertilization (IVF).  Just a few months after we were married, I was pregnant without IVF but the doctors warned us that a premature baby was a very likely outcome. Throughout my pregnancy we celebrated every milestone  Milestones that most people aren’t aware of, like 21 weeks being the earliest a baby can survive outside the womb. At 24 weeks we celebrated escaping preterm labor with medical assistance. We celebrated 28 weeks where survival is not just possible but likely and the latter being a threshold where complications were minimized.  Every week after 28 weeks was a gift in our eyes. So when my water broke with our first son at 34.5 weeks, we actually thought ourselves fortunate.

He spent some time in the Neonatal ICU.  Upon him being discharged home, we were taking our seemingly healthy baby boy home.  Hours later we received a call from a doctor at Shand’s Hospital in Gainesville. We spoke with a doctor who told us Hunter’s newborn screening test (PKU) was abnormal.  We were instructed to take him to the emergency room immediately. They had called ahead and they were waiting for him. We packed a bag and headed to the hospital with the expectation that we would return home that night.  We were soon reminded that things don’t always go according to our plans. Shortly after arriving, he stopped breathing due to a series of complications. The next few hours were the longest of our lives. We watched as respiratory technicians and doctors struggle to save our son.  We prayed over the shoulder of nurses whose hands were shaking while she tried to establish an IV. Eventually, he began to breathe again but now they needed to conduct a spinal tap and other tests to determine the cause. We sat in the waiting room while they tested our son.

He was readmitted in critical condition for several weeks weighing just 3 lbs.14 oz.  His condition stabilized and was giving the diagnosis of Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia.  He was given synthetic cortisol daily and visit an endocrinologist on a regular basis. His first few years were filled with doctor’s appointments along with physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, behavioral therapy, vision therapy and feeding therapy for several years.

Today he is a happy and healthy boy.  He is very active, rides his bike, swims well and plays on a national travel AAU basketball team.  Looking at him today, you’d never know that he has such a rough start.

Our second son was born full term.  I started labor with him at 32 weeks and gave birth at 39 weeks, 6 days.  I received weekly progesterone shots to help prevent premature labor and fetal diagnostic testing/treatment during the pregnancy.  If you were to see him today, his smile and spunky personality can turn your bad day to your best day!

We have watched first hand the most premature babies struggle to stay alive.  Even though they may reach a point were they have no permanent effects, they spend the first few years of their lives trying to catch up.