Last fall, Jessica Spradlin and her husband Ronnie found out they were pregnant. They had been hoping for a baby, and when the pregnancy test read “positive,” they were thrilled.
At their 12 week appointment, they found out they were having a little boy. They decided to name him Kailor Dean. “Kailor means “little warrior,” said Jessica. “Little did we know how much this was going to ring true for our sweet baby.”
Jessica’s pregnancy proceed normally at the early stages. But at about 15 weeks, she started having heavy bleeding.
She was rushed to the emergency room, was checked over, and waited anxiously to hear the results. They weren’t sure what was going on, but they were worried they had miscarried.
Thankfully, the doctors were able to detect Kailor’s heartbeat, and an ultrasound showed that he was doing okay. Jessica said that “he was always sucking on his thumb, rubbing his face, or waving at us.”
Once they’d determined that Jessica’s baby was doing well, the doctors sent her home. But the bleeding complications continued. “The bleeding never stopped, and honestly I, as well as my doctors, were in shock that Kailor was unaffected by this,” Jessica explained.
Even though the couple was very worried and stressed, they kept hoping and praying for their child’s health and safety. And they continued to seek answers.
Jessica was sent to a Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist in a nearby town to receive further care for her pregnancy, with regular check-up appointments.
At 18 weeks, a routine ultrasound showed a subchorionic hematoma. This is a condition where blood accumulates between the uterus and the gestational membranes during pregnancy. This causes heavy spotting during pregnancy and can increase the risk of miscarriage or preterm labor. Often, however, this condition will go away on its own, resolving by 20 weeks.
In Jessica’s case, it did not resolve. The doctors told her that because of her condition, she “should consider terminating this pregnancy.”
Though it was suggested again and again that Kailor wasn’t going to make it, the couple clung to hope. “I wasn’t giving up on my baby. He deserved a chance. He was surviving against the odds!” Jessica said.
The three weeks that followed were some of the most frightening of Jessica’s life. She was in and out of the hospital, and had to go through a total of ten blood transfusions because of low hemoglobin. But she was committed to doing everything she could to keep her baby alive and safe.
“I wasn’t giving up on my baby. He deserved a chance. He was surviving against the odds!”
Jessica’s pregnancy complications continued to progress, so her specialist planned on admitting her at 23 weeks to begin steroid shots and prepare for his early arrival. This specialist was not at the local hospital where she was receiving the blood transfusions—he was located 45 minutes away.
“So here I was, scared, knowing my son was coming entirely too early and after me fighting for my life, he’d be fighting for his. But we were ready and I was determined we were going to make it to the 23 week mark! We had made it so far and we weren’t giving up on him.”
But then, while at this local hospital, Jessica suddenly got very sick and passed out. At 22 weeks, 4 days along, she went into preterm labor.
She was given meds to try to stop the labor process, but they were unsuccessful.
Ronnie and Jessica contacted their specialist, who said he would treat Kailor if they could get him transferred. So they immediately began filling out the necessary paperwork needed for Kailor to be transferred by ambulance to their primary NICU.
This transfer was especially important because, as the couple soon found out, the local hospital’s policy only provided care for preemies starting at 23 weeks gestation—and not a day sooner.
Kailor was born at 9:45 a.m. on January 28, 2019, three days before the 23 week mark.
He came into the world still in his amniotic sac, and it took seven minutes for the doctor on call to get him out. He weighed 1 lb 2 oz and was 12 inches long, and Jessica said “his heart was still beating by the grace of God.”
Kailor needed immediate medical care to be stabilized. But the local hospital refused to give him any medical assistance since he was born 3 days—just 72 hours—before 23 weeks.
The doctors considered him “unviable” and allowed “comfort care” only.
This hospital does have a Level II NICU, and the capacity to stabilize babies like Kailor so they can be transferred to more advanced neonatal care units, but they still didn’t attempt to do anything. Jessica and Ronnie’s repeated request for care for their baby was denied.
It was anyone’s worst nightmare, but Jessica and Ronnie couldn’t even process it — they were focused on spending every possible moment with little Kailor.
He lived only 51 minutes before passing away in his mother’s arms, having received no medical care from the medical professionals surrounding them. “Those three days cost my baby his life,” Jessica said.
“I should be in the NICU fighting alongside my son, like he fought alongside me when my life was on the line keeping him alive. Instead I’m holding his memory box and visiting his grave.”
When it comes to providing care for preemies, not all hospital policies are the same. But the decision to give medical assistance to a preterm baby belongs to doctors and hospitals—not to parents.
Because this discrepancy is largely unknown, many parents like Jessica and Ronnie are left grieving their babies—babies who might have survived had they just been at hospitals with doctors willing to fight for their lives.
Recently, Jessica has taken to Facebook to share their story. Their page, @amomentwithkailor, is an effort to help spread awareness about this issue.
Not all micro preemies will survive, even when given medical care. But there are quite a few who have survived and are beating the odds. The earliest premature baby to survive was born at 21 weeks, 4 days. This baby was given medical care and is now a healthy three-year-old.
Jessica and Ronnie are giving a public voice to these little preemies who cannot advocate for their own care. “We have to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. Our hospitals do not own our children, these doctors do not get to decide whether they live or die. Our healthcare professionals need to remember this is not a number, a fetus. This is OUR BABY.”
For pregnant moms, especially those experiencing serious complications early in pregnancy, Jessica emphasizes that they ought to ask their hospital about their policies on preemie care.
It is up to the public to shed light on this tragedy. Speaking up and sharing stories like these will spark more conversations around this issue and, ultimately, will help change hearts—and maybe even hospital policies. “I fight for awareness to be brought to these micro preemies,” Jessica said. “We are the only ones who can save these lives. They deserve a chance.”