At the Right Place, At the Right Time

Kaitlyn and Stewart Skloss felt blessed knowing their newborn daughter was in the capable hands of an outstanding medical team at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. As their family grows, they plan to make CHofSA part of their birth plan.

Kaitlyn and Stewart Skloss from Fredericksburg were excited about the prospect of giving their only child, Ella, a younger sibling. After all, they always wanted a house full of kids and are hoping for as many as five, so learning Kaitlyn was pregnant was welcome news.

Things for the couple were progressing well. Kaitlyn was active, healthy, and felt great. She was enjoying extra quality time with Ella, and both were looking forward to the arrival of a new bundle of joy in late August.

When she was 28 weeks along, Kaitlyn had an anatomy scan, and that’s when it was detected that Mae was a little small – she was experiencing what doctors refer to as “restrictive fetal growth.” At this moment, Kaitlyn’s obstetrician, Dr. Sharrel Carlton of Peterson Women’s Associates, brought her under the care of maternal-fetal medicine specialist Dr. James Hill at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio (CHofSA).

Kaitlyn was referred to a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at CHofSA when her baby was smaller than expected at her 28-week prenatal care visit.

Both Kaitlyn and Stewart instantly liked Dr. Hill and knew they were in good hands.

“I loved his personality. He’s super smart and direct, but also makes you feel at ease and comfortable. I knew we could trust him, and I thought he provided excellent recommendations,” said Kaitlyn.

At this point of the journey, there was not much Kaitlyn could do differently. Other than being small, Mae was perfect. Dr. Hill and his team wanted to keep close track of Mae’s growth so Kaitlyn would go in weekly for anatomy scans. The scans revealed she was growing and doing just fine until Kaitlyn was 36 weeks along.

During one of her appointments, Kaitlyn’s umbilical Doppler reading was elevated. A Doppler reading is used in the third trimester of pregnancy to detect the well-being of the fetus. When such a reading is high, it could be a sign that a baby is in distress. Dr. Hill was brought in for a consult, and he decided that Kaitlyn would deliver Mae at 37 weeks.

Kaitlyn was all set for a delivery day of August 10. But during her appointment the day before, another umbilical Doppler reading showed it had jumped to 99%, which was concerning to Dr. Hill. Kaitlyn’s team decided August 9 would be Mae’s birthday.

The C-section with Dr. Peter Hsu at CHofSA was uneventful, and at that time, everyone thought Mae was doing just fine. But shortly after birth, Mae was having issues breathing, and her heartbeat was not where it should be. 

Baby Mae was welcomed into the world on August 9 and quickly taken to the neonatal intensive care unit.

“The next thing we knew, Mae was being rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU),” Stewart, Mae’s father, recalls. “Things went from bad to worse – to the point of them telling us she was one of the sickest babies under their care. Her lungs had not fully developed, and it was terrifying.”

During the next 48 hours, Mae as they began to call her and nicknamed “Mighty Mae” by her godmother, would have to be intubated and put on a ventilator with a feeding tube to survive.

During these medical procedures, Stewart was taking care of Ella at home and helping Kaitlyn’s mother. When he realized just how bad things were with Mae, he rushed back to the NICU and fearing the worst, he started scanning the room franticly for a priest as there were numerous doctors, nurses, and staff all surrounding Mae’s bedside. He was scared to death for his brand-new baby girl. It was torture for Kaitlyn and Stewart not to be able to hold Mae, but they had complete confidence in the CHofSA team.

Mae was put on a feeding tube and umbilical catheters were placed in her belly button for the medication to enter. And within 48 to 72 hours, Baby Mae was on the road to recovery. Once she started on the medicine, she turned the corner a made small improvements every day.

Kaitlyn and Stewart were so grateful to the team for saving Mae’s life and acting so quickly. They were so thankful that they brought food in three times a day for more than 70 care team members during their 12-day journey in the NICU and kept the meals coming even after they left.

“The doctors and nurses were just phenomenal. It felt like a little family. I was hysterical during the first few days of Mae’s life and I was amazed at how supportive and loving the NICU family treated me. We wanted to do something to show our thanks for all they did to help Mae,” said Kaitlyn. “Drs. Maria Pierce, Sowmya Mohan, and Cody Henderson and all the nurses and staff were absolutely incredible. Even Dr. Hsu, who delivered Mae, checked in on her in the NICU every day.”

Reflecting on the entire experience, both Kaitlyn and Stewart are particularly appreciative of Dr. Carlton. She had the foresight to suggest Kaitlyn deliver at CHofSA just in case there were any issues with Mae’s delivery. Kaitlyn knew how important it was to deliver at a facility with a NICU just in case something happened but did not ever think she would actually need to use it. Kaitlyn and Stewart now believe without a doubt that recommendation saved Mae’s life.

“We hope to have another baby in the next three years, and even if I have an uncomplicated pregnancy, I’m going to deliver at CHofSA. I know how important it is to have a plan in case something goes wrong like in Mae’s case,” said Kaitlyn.

The Skloss family is happy to have Baby Mae at home where she continues to gain weight and thrive.

Today, Baby Mae as they now call her, is at home. Weighing just over 10 lbs., she continues to gain more weight and Ella is enjoying her role as big sister.

While they are still not sure exactly what caused their daughter to go into distress after she was born, there is one thing they know for sure: they were at the right place at the right time.

“Everyone was fantastic, and we feel incredibly blessed that our paths intersected the doctors, nurses and management who took such great care of us at CHofSA,” said Stewart.

To learn more about the neonatal intensive care unit at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, please visit: https://www.christushealth.org/childrens/services-treatments/nicu.

Overcoming the Odds

Emily Strange didn’t realize she was pregnant until she was about 26 weeks along. Because she had Type 1 diabetes, she didn’t experience any of the usual symptoms of pregnancy. Emily and her boyfriend, Brandon, were shocked to receive the news.

“When I learned I was pregnant, I was a bit scared because I didn’t feel prepared. Most people have nine months to prepare; I had about three,” said Emily.

At the same appointment, Emily decided to learn the gender of her first-born baby:  a little boy she decided to name Colton.

Airing on the side of caution, her obstetrician at San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC) decided to hospitalize her to make sure her blood sugar levels stayed within the normal range. If they went too high, it could have been dangerous for little Colton.

After about three days in the hospital, Emily was able to go home and enjoy some quality time with family and friends before Colton’s arrival. She also was able to have a baby shower.

Emily didn’t find out she was pregnant until she was 26 weeks along. She only had a short time to prepare for the birth of her son.

Everything was going smoothly. Because Emily was high risk, she had to go in weekly for what is known as a non-stress test. A non-stress test is a common prenatal test used to check on a baby’s health.

When she was about 36 weeks along, Emily went in for a routine non-stress test. After they hooked her up, they noticed Colton’s heartbeat was too low.

“They tried every trick in the book. They gave me some ice-cold water, put some vibration on my belly, and moved me to my side in hopes that Colton would wake up, but there were no spikes in his heart rate,” said Emily.

Doctors decided to do an ultrasound to see if everything was okay. The next thing she knew, Emily was told that Colton would be arriving that day – about four weeks before his original due date. All Emily could think about was that the car seat hadn’t been installed and that she had no stroller. How could this be happening now?

Emily desired to have a natural birth, but because of Colton’s condition, it was best that she have a C-section to get him out of the womb as soon as possible. At 8:35 p.m., Colton came into the world and Emily remembers a nurse showing her Colton quickly and then rushing him off to a corner of the room to an incubator.

“There was no crying nor any excitement, and I wondered what was going on,” remembers Emily.

Colton was having issues breathing and had stopped breathing for a few minutes. Nurses and doctors were doing everything they could to help him.

Around midnight, Emily and Brandon were finally able to meet their baby boy. He was hooked up to multiple machines and was lying on a cooling blanket to regulate his temperature, a scene that broke Emily’s heart. Because he had experienced some brain trauma, they were unable to hold him or even touch him. The NICU doctors and nurses could get his breathing regulated again, and Emily and Brandon thought they had gotten through the worst of it. That is when they learned Colton had hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain.

The doctors at SAMMC told Emily and Brandon that Colton would need surgery to place a shunt. Since they did not have a pediatric neurosurgeon on staff, Colton would need to be transferred to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio (CHofSA).

When the team at CHofSA came to pick up Colton, Emily had to stay behind because she was still recovering from her C-section. Brandon went to be with their newborn son and stayed by his side as much as he could, catching an occasional nap in the car.

As soon as Emily received her discharge papers, she went straight to CHofSA. She couldn’t wait to be reunited with Colton. At this point, he was three days old.

“When I did get to see him, I could put only one finger on him; I couldn’t stroke him because he was just experiencing too much trauma, including seizures. He couldn’t take the extra stimulation,” said Emily.

So, Brandon and Emily would spend hours next to Colton in his incubator. They would read books to him and talk to him. They didn’t know if Colton could hear them, but in case he could, they thought the sound of their voices would be comforting to him.

In many ways, the experience was somewhat of a waiting game until they got results back from an MRI, CT scan, and ultrasound. Colton had experienced quite a bit of swelling in his brain while, at the same time, more fluid was accumulating.

At this point, Emily and Brandon were told that Colton could go blind or deaf or that he would be unable to walk and be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. There were many unknowns, and there was no way to be sure.

Despite several setbacks, Emily and Brandon trusted the expertise of the medical team caring for their son.

Despite being terrified for Colton, Emily and Brandon remained strong for him. They discussed options with the neurosurgeon, Dr. Kimberly Terry, and waited for Colton to have his shunt surgery.

Their plans got derailed when Dr. Terry told them that Colton’s head had become extremely swollen. Dr. Terry said the next step before having the shunt would be to do a series of what are referred to as taps and a reservoir surgery to help manage the fluid in his brain. On July 2, when Colton was less than a month old, he had reservoir surgery and came out like a champ.

“It was really frightening. I had never experienced anyone having brain surgery before. And it seemed like forever in the waiting room,” said Emily. “And then Dr. Terry came out and said the surgery went great and that Colton had had his first haircut. She even saved the hair as a keepsake for me.”

Colton was one step closer to receiving his shunt, which meant one step closer to going home.

On August 18, Colton had his shunt surgery. And on August 25, Emily and Brandon were able to take their baby boy home after spending 80 days in the NICU.

Before leaving the hospital, the NICU team made sure Colton was able to sit in his car seat safely for the ride home.

While being in the NICU wasn’t exactly where they planned or hoped to be, Emily said it was a positive experience. The nurses in the NICU went the extra mile and decorated his bed for Father’s Day, the Fourth of July, and back-to-school.

“The team at CHofSA made us feel like family. We never felt uncomfortable, and they always made us feel welcome. The doctors and surgeons, including Dr. Kimberly Terry, Dr. Maria Pierce, and Linh Reeves, did a great job of keeping us informed and reassuring us, even when they had to deliver bad news. It was a great experience,” said Emily.

As for Colton, he loves being at home. He gets to be with his mom and dad all day, and they all enjoy that. While he’s hitting some of his newborn milestones, he’s not hitting them as a full-term baby would due to the issues with his brain. He has regular weekly appointments with different specialists to check on his progress and Emily is hopeful he will start to catch up.

“We don’t know what the future will bring. For now, we are taking it one precious day at a time,” said Emily.