PHOENIX (KTVK) - A baby girl who weighed less than a pound at birth is finally home after spending five months at an Arizona hospital.
Kallie Bender was released from St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix on Monday.
She was born on May 24 at just 25 weeks gestation and measured shorter than an average-sized Barbie doll.
It's been a long journey for Kallie, who is one of the smallest babies to ever receive medical care in St. Joseph's Nursery Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Now, weighing more than 7 pounds, Kallie has defied the odds -- thanks to her supportive family and a skilled team of doctors and nurses.
“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.”
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 complex heart procedure after she was diagnosed with a heart defect common among micro-preemies.
Miraculously, Kallie didn’t suffer any brain bleeds or blindness due to her early arrival. Those are conditions that can occur in babies born around Kallie’s size and gestational age.
One thing that worked in Kallie's favor was that she was born at St. Joseph’s, avoiding the need to be airlifted to another facility.
While pregnant, Kallie’s mom, Ebonie Bender, was admitted to the hospital shortly after she was told that her baby girl was measuring extremely small during an ultrasound.
Bender, 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 NICU. “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, Bender 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 NICU for immediate medical care. Later that day, Bender and her husband 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 Bender. “But, she was here, and with God on her side, Kallie Skye was ready to fight for her life.”
And little Kallie is definitely a fighter.
For several weeks, her tiny body relied on a machine called an oscillator to help her breathe as she continued to grow.
Since the day she was born, a dedicated team of nurses has 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 Bender. “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 daughter has accomplished.
They had to wait 37 days to hold her 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 some bittersweet milestones along the way, including Kallie’s 100th day in the NICU.
Now, Kallie’s parents are looking forward to the next stage of having their baby girl at 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.
“We are looking forward to having more independence and creating new memories as a family of five,” said Bender.