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PHOENIX – Oct. 21, 2019) – A baby girl born at just 25 weeks gestation and weighing only 370 grams at birth is thriving and will be released from Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center today. Born on May 24, Kallie Bender, who weighed less than a pound and measured shorter than an average sized Barbie doll at birth, spent nearly 150 days in St. Joseph’s Nursery Intensive Care Unit (NyICU). Now, weighing more than seven pounds, Kallie has defied the odds thanks to her supportive family and a skilled team of doctors and nurses at St. Joseph’s.
“We’re thrilled that after nearly five months Kallie is going home with her family,” said Becky Cole, one of Kallie’s primary nurses. “We’ve loved being able to watch her grow and are excited for her to celebrate many milestones in the future with her parents and brothers.”
Kallie is one of the smallest babies to ever be cared for in St. Joseph’s NyICU. Survival rates for babies born under one pound are typically slim, but Kallie received developmentally-appropriate care to help her grow and gain strength. She also recovered from a successful and complex heart procedure, performed by a team of skilled surgeons from St. Joseph’s, after she was diagnosed with patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), a common heart defect among micro-preemies.
Miraculously, Kallie didn’t suffer any brain bleeds or blindness due to prematurity, which can occur in babies born around Kallie’s size and gestational-age. This is partially due to the fact that Kallie was born at
St. Joseph’s, avoiding the need to be airlifted to another facility to treat her advanced and specific medical needs.
While pregnant, Kallie’s mom, Ebonie Bender, was referred and admitted to St. Joseph’s shortly after she was told that her baby girl was measuring extremely small during an ultrasound appointment. Ebonie, who was just six-months into her high-risk pregnancy due to her blood pressure, learned there was also a lack of fluid around the baby. It was caused by a condition called absent end diastolic flow.
“Absent end diastolic flow occurs when the blood flow is reduced or reversed from the placenta to the unborn baby, preventing them from getting the nutrients they need,” said Vinit Manuel, MD, medical director of St. Joseph’s NyICU. “This condition can affect the baby’s growth in utero and impact their lung and gastro-intestinal development.”
After four days of bed rest and a series of tests, Ebonie was told the baby would need to be delivered right away because the blood flow had reversed from the baby to the placenta. Less than an hour later, Kallie was born 15 weeks premature. She was quickly rushed to the NyICU for immediate medical care. Later that day, Ebonie and her husband Dameon were able to see their baby girl for the first time.
“It was a relief to see her even though she was tiny and hooked up to all of these machines,” said Ebonie. “But, she was here and with God on her side, Kallie Skye was ready to fight for her life.”
And that’s exactly what Kallie did, fight. For several weeks, Kallie’s tiny body relied on a machine called an oscillator to help her breath as she continued to grow. Since the day she was born, a dedicated team of nurses have provided Kallie with specialized care around the clock to help her gain strength.
“Over the last few months, it was amazing to watch her grow and see how she would have been developing inside the womb,” said Ebonie. “I look at her pictures all the time because so much has changed in her features, size and personality.”
Kallie’s parents have been her biggest cheerleaders over the last several months, celebrating every goal their tiny but mighty daughter has accomplished in the NyICU. They patiently waited 37 days to hold their daughter for the first time and rejoiced when she was strong enough to take a bottle, bathe in a “big girl” tub and fit into newborn-sized clothes. They also celebrated bittersweet milestones including Kallie’s 100th day in the NyICU.
St. Joseph’s NyICU team was by the Bender’s side through every up and down the family faced along the way.
Now, Kallie’s parents are looking forward to the next milestone heading home. Kallie will still need her oxygen tank and feeding tube for a little while longer as she continues to learn to breathe and eat on her own. Although Kallie still has a few more goals to reach, Ebonie and Dameon are looking forward to finally bring Kallie home for the very first time.
“We are looking forward to having more independence and creating new memories as a family of five,” said Ebonie.