Little miracles come in all shapes and sizes, but Penelope was smaller than most. As a “micro-preemie” born 16 weeks early, life outside the womb was bound to be a bumpy ride for this little girl of Martensville, Sask.
When her mother, Danielle, was admitted to Maternal Services 23 weeks and five days into her pregnancy, the thought of giving birth soon hadn’t crossed her mind. It was far too early to meet Penelope, but nurses in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) came to speak with the family to prepare them for what may lie ahead.
Only two days later, Penelope made her way into the world with a powerful spirit but a not-so-powerful little body. Weighing only one pound, three ounces at birth, chances of survival were slim.
“She arrived so quickly – I only laboured for an hour,” said Danielle. “She was whisked away from us after I only got a quick glance at her. It was hours before I got to see her. She didn’t even have a name for the first bit of her life.”
Twelve days passed before Penelope could be held in her mother’s arms for the first time. The essential skin-to-skin bonding between mom and baby gave Penelope an extra boost of healthy benefits to help her keep forging ahead. Her underdeveloped lungs prevented her from breathing on her own and she was intubated for 47 days on the highest ventilator setting, and even that wasn’t enough. Chronic lung disease and feeding intolerance followed as this tiny fighter pushed through one day at a time, growing stronger in slow but steady increments.
“She was not out of the woods, but she fought hard,” said Danielle. “Holding her was the only thing I could do that made me feel like her mom. On New Year’s Day, she came off her ventilator and it was a new year with a fresh start.”
Penelope’s health issues didn’t stop with her lungs. Doctors discovered she had a hole in her heart and might need surgery if it didn’t close on its own. Her fragile body wasn’t expected to heal itself, especially with other hurdles such as laser eye surgery for retinopathy of prematurity on day 87. Thankfully, Penelope was stronger than she seemed and her heart naturally grew healthier as she neared her NICU graduation date.
After 150 days of fighting for her life, Penelope took her first car ride home. She had risen above every obstacle that came her way and was ready to settle into the next stage of life as a five-month-old “newborn”.
“We were sent off with lots of hugs and tears from the NICU staff, and our friends and family welcomed us home with balloons,” remembers Danielle. “Bringing her home was the best day ever!”