April 8, 2013

Lisa Morgan never imagined having to deliver her first baby at 24 weeks gestation, but that possibility became very real on Dec. 8, 1995.

"I lived in Southern West Virginia and was planning to deliver in Beckley," Morgan said. "However, due to preeclampsia that isn't what happened."

After a routine visit to her obstetrician, Morgan began having severe cramps and went to the emergency room before returning to her home 45 minutes away. There, she was told about CAMC Women and Children's Hospital and the team of doctors that was available to help someone in her situation.

"When they told me what was happening, my blood pressure doubled," she said. "I was then brought by ambulance to CAMC where they immediately began administering medications to help with my baby's lungs."

By Dec. 10 the baby, Ayla Chandler Edwards, had to be delivered by c-section, weighing 1 pound, 2 ounces. She was 105 days early, and Morgan was able to see her baby briefly before she was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

"Being born at 24 weeks gestation 17 years ago meant that there was a possibility of a dismal outcome," said Stefan Maxwell, MD, medical director of the NICU at CAMC Women and Children's Hospital and the neonatologist who was present when Ayla was born. "Extremely premature babies like Ayla have a high risk of mortality, not to mention other complications such as growth restrictions and possibilities of hearing and vision loss, intra-cranial hemorrhage with the associated morbidity of compromised neurodevelopment, etc."

Ayla spent three and a half months in the NICU, from Dec. 9, 1995 to March 23, 1996. She was on a ventilator for 40 days and had an intestinal perforation, which was surgically repaired. Despite those setbacks, she was discharged from the hospital on her original due date.

"It meant so much to have a high standard of care for Ayla," Morgan said. "It was all very magical to me. She has remarkable vision for someone who was born that early, and has no lasting respiratory issues. We had to come back to the hospital monthly for IV therapy the first year of her life, but other than that she hasn't had any major issues that stemmed from her prematurity."

Today, Ayla is a thriving 17-year-old who loves the theater and performs in many school plays. She also excels in her school work, and scored a 28 on the ACT when she took it for the first time before the beginning of her junior year of high school.

"I like science," Ayla said. "I want to get my PhD or medical degree and go into something like genetics."

"Like any preemie, Ayla had many problems, but she has gone on to be a genius," Maxwell said.

Many babies like Ayla are still being born or transferred to Women and Children's Hospital every day. Funds raised through the CAMC Foundation Gala help to provide care for these babies. For more information about the gala or how you can help these tiny babies, visit camcfoundation.org or call (304) 388-9860.

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