This micro-preemie beating the odds is a true Christmas miracle

Everyday Musings

December 22, 2019

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photo by: Lawren Rose Photograhy

When Brooke Fowler was admitted to the hospital 23 weeks into her pregnancy, she never imagined she’d be giving birth to her son, Charlie, just one week later. 

Brooke was diagnosed with hypertension two weeks prior, and prescribed bed rest at home. But while on bedrest, she noticed that her baby was not moving around like he typically had been for a couple of days. She decided to go in and see her maternal fetal specialist the next day, just to be sure he was okay.

They did a sonogram, and the scan showed decreased amniotic fluid levels—essential for a baby’s muscle, lung, and organ development. They also noticed he had stopped growing.

Her doctor was not quite sure what was going on, so she had Brooke admitted to the hospital for closer monitoring, and she was put on complete bed rest. She was also asked to drink lots of water to try and boost her fluid levels.

Brooke and her husband, Aaron, were very concerned about their baby, but they continued to keep a positive attitude. “My hypertension diagnosis and bed rest instructions [were] NOT what I was anticipating,” Brooke shared. “We have begun lots of extra prayers, as well as special prayers asking for the intercession of St. Gerard, who has provided many miracles for mothers and their babies.”

After a few days, Brooke seemed to be stabilized, and all of her tests came back normal, so the doctors were going to send her home on bed rest—but just to be sure, they did one final sonogram.

This sonogram showed her fluid levels had dropped again significantly. And within hours, Charlie started having repeated heart decelerations.

The doctors knew this situation was life-threatening, so they sprang into action, delivering baby Charlie via emergency C-section at 24 weeks gestation.

Lawren Rose Photography

Charles Gerard Fowler was born on August 26th—three and a half months before his due date—weighing just 1lb 2oz. Even though he was 24 weeks old, his growth had been restricted in utero, so he was actually the size of a “21 or 22 week old preemie,” according to doctors.

During the C-section, the doctors discovered the cause of the problems Charlie was experiencing in utero—he had a hypercoiled umbilical cord, and a true knot had formed in the cord as well. This can happen due to lots of fetal movement early on, and impede the transfer of necessary nutrients and oxygen to a developing baby, thereby restricting growth. 

Lawren Rose Photography

It was clear that delivering Charlie at this early stage was critical to increase his chances of living. “Being born [early] saved his life,” Brooke said. “He came out kicking and is already a fighter.”

Though he was little, thanks to advances in neonatal technology, babies like Charlie are increasingly able to survive—and thrive—if given proper care and assistance. 

“No one wants their baby to be born so young,” said Brooke. “But Charlie could not have been born surrounded by more incredible people. What a beautiful and glorious testament and witness to the power of prayer…not to mention the lives Charlie has touched showing how precious life is, even at such a young and fragile age.”

Lawren Rose Photography

Charlie’s original due date was December 15th, and he’s had a long NICU journey over the past few months, but with each passing day, he continues to “grow wonderfully,” his proud mama wrote.

Brooke and Aaron also have two other boys, ages three and one-and-a-half, so these past few months have been incredibly difficult for them, to say the least. 

“Trying to juggle recovery, work, prayer time, keeping up with the house, hospital visits, pumping around the clock…and keeping Sam and Bennett’s lives as normal and on schedule as possible, has been a whirlwind of craziness and stress.” 

The parents have been leaning on their community of family and friends to support them during this time, particularly with providing meals. They’ve expressed much gratitude for the support they’ve received, and for the attentive care of the medical staff working around the clock to keep Charlie alive. 

“Life loves to throw curve balls…[but] God is helping us grow in many virtues every single day…and has blessed us with the most incredible and beautiful community of people to support us..both online, physically, and spiritually.”

Lawren Rose Photography

On World Preemie Day, however, Brooke did share that the doctors had proposed, at one point, that this fight wouldn’t be worth it for Charlie, and that they should let him go after birth.  

“The doctors suggested we just make Charlie comfortable, hold him, and let him pass away because the likelihood of him living was almost nothing. We said no…that is not an option, you will fight for our baby! They did, and he has proven them all wrong.”

In many hospitals, 24 weeks is the cutoff point for when doctors will use intensive medical intervention to attempt to save the life of a baby born prematurely, though the earliest born premature baby to survive is 21 weeks. 

Babies born as early as Charlie generally have about a 39% survival rate, but since he had the growth restriction and was the size of a 21 week old preemie, his chances of survival looked to be even less—under 17%

Like other micro-preemies, Charlie has required much medical intervention to survive these past few months—including needing ventilation and tubal assistance with eating and breathing. But their efforts are working, and baby Charlie is thriving.

Left Photo: Charlie born at 24 weeks—Right Photo: Charlie at 36 weeks

Brooke said, “So many of the scans and tests he has passed are extremely rare for a baby born at his age and size from the growth restriction in utero.” 

One of the tests he’s passed includes a brain scan that checked for bleeding, very common in micro-preemies. But Charlie’s scan showed no bleeding, developmental delays or defects—his brain looked “absolutely perfect.”

“God is truly working miracles for us on a daily basis,” Brooke said. 

Lawren Rose Photography

Charlie is currently still in the NICU, where they are waiting to bring him home until his blood oxygen levels reduce. So for now, Brooke and Aaron are taking each day, one at a time, and savoring every moment with him that they possibly can.

As of December 15th—his original due date—Charlie weighs a healthy 9lb 5.2 oz! And he is getting closer to going home with each passing day.

“Considering everything that has happened, Aaron and I are doing very well,” said Brooke. “We have our ups and downs, days filled with happy moments and days filled with tears, laughter, and complete break downs…this is not an easy journey, but we will get through it stronger than ever and one day have our Charlie home.”

This Christmas will mark just about four months for Charlie’s NICU journey—and his success is a true testament to the extraordinary strength and fighting spirit of even the smallest of little ones.

Brooke and Aaron are so happy and grateful for the progress he has made, and they look forward to bringing him home soon.

“We are incredibly thankful for Charlie’s beautiful and precious life! Thankful for every single prayer, from every single person across the globe, and thankful for every little breath he takes. God has been abundant in his miracles and blessings every step of the way.”

Lawren Rose Photography

For updates on Charlie and to follow along with their story please visit Brooke’s Facebook page.

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