Shelby Hale spent 91 days in the neonatal intensive care unit at Middle Tennessee Medical Center in 2012. She is now a typical 15-month-old toddler.
Expectant mother Breeann Hale just didn’t feel right on Friday, Jan. 20, 2012.
Her feet were swollen and her blood pressure was high so she headed to her doctor’s office.
“The doctor told me I was headed to labor and delivery,” said Hale, who lives in Cannon County and works at Woodbury Insurance.
The doctor had bad news: Hale had pre-eclampsia. If left untreated it can lead to full-blown eclampsia, which causes seizures and could cause the deaths of both the mother and child.
Hale was rushed to the hospital where she stayed over the weekend, praying her blood pressure would go down and she would get to go home. But that wasn’t to be.
“I laid there heartbroken and scared of what was going to happen to our baby ...” Hale said. “As my condition worsened, my doctor thought, for mine and the baby’s safety, it was time to deliver.”
Typically occurring after 20 weeks of gestation, pre-eclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure during pregnancy and protein in the urine. Hale was only 28 weeks into her pregnancy when she became symptomatic.
Hale’s doctor decided for the safety of both mother and child that she needed to deliver early. Shelby Grace Hale entered this world three months early because that is the only known cure for pre-eclampsia.
Shelby was born to Breeann and her husband Chad Hale on Jan. 23, 2012, weighing only 2 pounds 1 ounce.
Shelby was one of the estimated half million babies born prematurely in 2012. That equals one in nine pregnancies nationwide. In Tennessee in 2012, more than 10,000 babies were born early with more than 2,500 of them born at Middle Tennessee Medical Center alone.
“Our community is in crucial need of help: Each week in Tennessee, 204 babies are born prematurely,” said Gordon Ferguson, president of MTMC. “This is why we support the March for Babies and are honored to be the walk’s presenting sponsor for the fifth straight year.”
This year’s March for Babies is set for 2 p.m. Sunday, May 5 at the DePaul Building on the campus of MTMC, 1700 Medical Center Parkway in Murfreesboro. Registration begins at 1 p.m.
Donations can be made at marchforbabies.org. There is still time to start a fundraising team.
The March for Babies is a fundraiser for the March of Dimes, which works to help mothers have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies by funding research, education and vaccines.
“As a parent of a premature baby, we need to support the March of Dimes so the research can continue,” Hale said, adding Shelby was one of the 2,500 babies delivered prematurely at MTMC in 2012.
But, like most premature babies, Shelby’s fight didn’t end at birth.
She spent the next 91 days in the neonatal intensive care unit at MTMC where she struggled to breathe through underdeveloped lungs.
“She suffered a pulmonary hemorrhage and had one blood transfusion,” Hale said, explaining Shelby was on a ventilator and then a continuous positive airway pressure machine and finally moving to the nasal cannula before she was able to breathe on her own.
All these devices helped her breathe but the constant flow of oxygen into her little system caused problems too.
“As the weeks passed, Shelby had to get regular eye exams,” Hale said. One of those exams found she had developed retinopathy of prematurity, which is an eye condition found in premature babies, especially those exposed to high doses of oxygen.
Despite the complications, Shelby persevered. And as she got closer to her original due date of April 14, she got stronger.
“Finally the 91-day journey was coming to an end,” Hale said. “This was a bittersweet time for us. We were so happy that we were bringing our baby girl home, yet at the same time, it was sad (because) we had grown so fond of the nurses and doctors.”
A little more than a year and three months later, Shelby is a happy healthy girl, who is developing typically.
“As we know, premature births may never stop,” Hale said, “but through the March of Dimes, they are able to give answers to take better care of the most special things in our lives: our babies.”
More info ...
March for Babies
2 p.m. Sunday, May 5 at the DePaul Building on the campus of MTMC, 1700 Medical Center Parkway.
Registration begins at 1 p.m.