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April Fool’s Day Preemie Surprises Dad with a Special First Father’s Day at Home


A premature baby born on April Fool’s Day is helping her dad have an unforgettable first Father’s Day. 

After spending nearly three months in the Nursery Intensive Care Unit (NyICU) at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, Emma Lawson will make her long-awaited journey to her parent’s home in Chandler on Friday just in time for her dad’s special day.

“She seems to have a thing for the holidays,” says welder Chris Lawson of his first child whose major milestones have been on or near holidays. Since his daughter’s birth, he visits the hospital every chance he gets to talk to her, hold her and sing her to sleep. “I can’t wait to finally spend a quiet day at home with the two lovely ladies in my life.”

Lawson, 31, and his girlfriend Cindy Mendenhall, 35, first learned of the pregnancy on Halloween last year. They shared the exciting news with their families on Thanksgiving and learned on Valentine’s Day that they were expecting a baby girl. Everything seemed normal.

Then one night, Mendenhall, who works as a construction project engineer, went to bed with a back ache and woke up on March 28 with intermittent pain and cramping. Knowing something wasn’t right, the couple raced to the emergency room. Mendenhall was in preterm labor, already dilated five centimeters.

“No matter how much I read about all the possibilities, I never expected to have any complications, let alone an extremely premature baby,” says Mendenhall who was rushed to St. Joseph’s where doctors worked tirelessly to save both her life and Emma’s. “It’s been a rollercoaster from the start.”

Born 14-weeks before her due date, Emma surprised her parents at St. Joseph’s on April 1, weighing just one pound and 14 ounces. St. Joseph’s Level III NyICU treats some of the most severally ill infants from throughout the Southwest and cares for nearly 700 premature babies every year.

Through all the ups and downs typical for NyICU babies, this tiny miracle has made amazing progress and will go home without oxygen or a feeding tube. Emma now weighs five pounds and seven ounces, and is continuing to grow. - St. Joseph’s

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