Kaylee Tovar’s pregnancy was anything but ordinary. About a week after she learned she was pregnant, she experienced some cramping and then significant bleeding. She thought she was having a miscarriage. She later learned that she had what is known as a subchorionic hematoma or bleeding under one of the membranes that surrounds the embryo inside the uterus. She continued to spot on and off for the next few weeks and then started having symptoms of what she thought was morning sickness at around three months into the pregnancy. But she was in for another surprise.
“It turns out I was positive for COVID-19. I was feverish, lost my sense of taste and smell, and just felt really tired,” said Kaylee. “But thankfully, my symptoms were mild.”
After recovering from COVID-19, Kaylee continued with her prenatal screenings. It was during one of these prenatal checkups that doctors discovered Kaylee’s baby had Down syndrome. Kaylee took the news in stride and felt like it was something she could handle until she started Googling and learning about all the different birth defects associated with Down syndrome.
“I was pretty depressed during the pregnancy just because of everything that was going on. I was really worried about him,” said Kaylee.
When she was about 16 weeks along, Kaylee had a sonogram to detect other birth defects. Much to Kaylee’s relief, they could not see any heart defects or anything else out of the ordinary – only features that indicated Down syndrome.
Her doctors scheduled a C-section for 38 weeks, but her baby, who she would name Dax, had other plans.
When she was about 36 weeks along, Kaylee started having contractions. She thought they were Braxton-Hicks contractions and was not too concerned. But Kaylee was uncomfortable and couldn’t even sit up in a chair or get a good night’s rest. She went to see her obstetrician, who told her that her cervix was only dilated one centimeter and sent her home. Later that night, the contractions got more intense. She found herself back in the hospital and was five centimeters dilated.
Kaylee had a C-section when she was 36 weeks and five days into her pregnancy. Initially, Baby Dax was doing well but needed some oxygen, so the doctors admitted him to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
“I thought everything was OK. We went back and forth to the NICU a couple of times, and we were able to hold Dax,” said Kaylee.
Then, things changed – quickly. The medical team informed Kaylee that Dax would need a blood transfusion because his white blood cell count was extremely high which meant he was trying to fight off some sort of infection. Kaylee thought this was only a minor setback and that Dax would get through it without issue.
Less than an hour later, though, Dax was coughing up blood, and the doctors didn’t know why. The doctors had to act fast and decided to transfer Dax to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio (CHofSA). Kaylee and her husband remained by Dax’s bedside until it was time for him to be transferred.
“I was hysterical. It was already bad enough Dax wasn’t at my bedside. Now, he was going to be in another hospital, and I wouldn’t be able to see him because I was still recovering from my C-section,” said Kaylee.
As the CHofSA team transported Dax, Kaylee returned to her room and tried to rest. Within hours, she received a phone call and learned that Dax would need another blood transfusion and would need to have emergency surgery because there was a tear in his stomach, the source of the blood he was coughing up earlier.
All sorts of things went through Kaylee’s mind. Was the tear in his stomach something to do with Down syndrome? Was it something that wasn’t detected during her pregnancy that should have been? Was the reason for the high white blood cell count leukemia?
Dax underwent his surgery and did remarkably well. He was having some issues with his lungs – something Kaylee expected. He was put on a respirator to assist with his breathing.
The next day Kaylee was discharged from the hospital where she had her C-section and was reunited with her son at CHofSA.
“They weren’t sure what may have caused the tear in his stomach. It could have been a variety of things, but the good news was that he did well. It was definitely a lot to take in. I’d never had a NICU baby before,” said Kaylee.
But through the whole ordeal, the team at CHofSA kept Kaylee informed, so she knew exactly what was going on. Kaylee still was very nervous throughout his recovery and remembers him needing another platelet transfusion a little later.
“I’d really like to thank the entire team for taking care of him. The nurses, the therapists, and the doctors, especially Dr. (Michael) Megison, and Dr. (Lindsay) DeVries, Dr. (Pratik) Parikh, Dr. (Katherine) Bratton, Dr. (Adam) Wolfe, and Dr. (Maria) Pierce, took care of Dax as if he was their own,” said Kaylee. “I could tell they all cared about Dax and took care of him when I felt helpless.”
Kaylee also extends her appreciation to the Ronald McDonald House located inside The Children’s Hospital, which served as a home away from home when Dax was in the NICU. Kaylee was able to get some rest while remaining close by.
Dax spent 34 days in the NICU and is now at home with his older brother where he is doing well. He sees his pediatrician frequently – and tells Kaylee that Dax is doing great.
“We just take it one day at a time and are forever grateful to the team at CHofSA,” said Kaylee.
The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio provides comprehensive care for the area’s most vulnerable babies. Learn more about this amazing multidisciplinary team by visiting our website.