Amazing Kids, Amazing Stories: Liam's Story
This summer, Liam Klein smeared cake and frosting all over his face like most toddlers do to celebrate their first birthday. And his parents say you'd never know Liam was one of the first babies admitted to the American Family Children's Hospital brand-new NICU when it opened last spring.
Liam's mother, Samantha, says she had experienced no complications during her pregnancy, until she was 27 weeks along, when she noticed some spotting. An ultrasound revealed her cervix had prematurely shortened, so her doctor recommended bed rest for the rest of her pregnancy. Twelve hours later, she woke up with contractions.
Baby Liam arrived on June 18, 2014 - 12 weeks early. Doctors at the hospital in Lancaster, Wis., called in UW Health's C.H.E.T.A. Critical Care Transport team, who rushed Liam to Madison, where he was one of the first premature babies admitted to the NICU, which had opened just one month earlier.
The Klein family spent 66 days at American Family Children's Hospital. "There were good times, and really bad times," Samantha remembers. "It sometimes seemed like we took two steps forward and then five steps back. It was a roller coaster of emotions."
Liam had to be intubated through the beginning of his stay, his tiny body exhausted from the hard work of breathing, and he suffered a reaction to a blood transfusion. But Samantha says they've since learned they were fairly lucky, able to avoid many of the complications premature babies can face.
While Samantha stayed put in the NICU for three months, Liam's father, Brandon, drove three hours to and from work and home every day. He says he struggled at times wearing two hats: the strong husband giving his wife a shoulder to cry on, but also the worried dad.
"It was a whirlwind of emotions," he recalls. "I was torn up inside and feeling pretty helpless. But I also needed to be stable for Sam so she could let her worry show."
Samantha and Brandon say they are grateful for the support of the nurses, doctors and staff who, in the end, felt like family.
"Everyone was so accommodating," Samantha says. "There's a comfortable place to sleep; room service brings you food; everything was right here when we needed it. It was nice to not have to worry about those extra things, because we could spend all our worries on our child."
In August, about 10 days before Liam's original due date, the family of three was able to go home.
"The first few nights were nerve-wracking," Brandon remembers. "Not only was he our first child, he was also coming out of the intensive care unit. Take the stories you hear of first-time parents, and multiply that by one-hundred."
Today, Liam's parents describe him as a fun-loving, energetic baby, who is developmentally right on track with babies his age. "There's not one person who could walk in the house right now, and know what he went through just 11 months ago," Samantha says. "We're so thankful and grateful for the opportunity to have this healthy boy in our lives."
Looking back: Liam in the NICU
Photo by John Maniaci