Steamboat Springs Hannah McCreight wasn't due until today, but she's been fighting for life for two months already making it through an emergency flight to Denver in a blizzard, a Caesarean delivery and a month each at two different hospitals.
The daughter of two local dentists was born at 29 weeks and was kept alive with the latest technology available in Denver and Steamboat Springs.
"Looking at the tanks, wires and monitors, it's scary to see what's keeping your kid alive," Jim McCreight said.
But without the neonatal care available at Yampa Valley Medical Center and Swedish Medical Center, Jim said Hannah would probably have died, and his wife, Wendy, might have, too.
Hannah spent four weeks at the Denver hospital and another month at the hospital in Steamboat. The McCreights said the local facility was just as impressive as the one in Denver.
"I felt like we were in a state-of-the-art hospital. The nursing staff and the doctors are phenomenal," Jim said. "People say you have to be in the big city to get quality medical care, but it's not true. We are so lucky to have that new hospital."
Wendy spent a month in Denver with Hannah, while Jim struggled to cover their dentistry practice in Craig.
"He was stressed out up here and I was stressed out down there. We were apart and it was not an easy thing. Then it got to the point where the doctor said she's old enough to go to Steamboat because they have a Level II nursery," Wendy said.
Yampa Valley Medical Center's Level II nursery allows doctors and nurses to care for premature babies that in the past had to be sent to Denver.
"It was really important for us to be together as a family and you can't do that when you're miles apart," Wendy said.
Hannah was the smallest infant to come to the new hospital from a Denver hospital, according to her pediatrician, Dr. Ron Famiglietti.
"The whole goal of this nursery was to provide that level of care for families so that they could be close to home, versus the first month where her family was separated," Famiglietti said. "Two years ago, there's no way we could have done that."
This year, the neonatal nursery has cared for 10 premature babies. Nine of those families were able to stay in the area for medical care.
"Every single one of those would have been to Denver at one point," Famiglietti said. "That's a huge success."
Hannah weighed less than 3 pounds when she was born, but talk to any parent of a preemie and you'll learn that weight gain is measured not in pounds, but ounces and even grams.
"She gained five grams today," Jim said Friday, the day of Hannah's discharge from Yampa Valley Medical Center.
Her parents hope she makes it to six pounds by today, her due date.
Most babies born as early as Hannah don't have time to fully develop their lungs. Wendy's obstetrician, Dr. Leslie Ahlmeyer, was able to give Wendy two steroid shots to improve Hannah's chances.
"She came out like a little trooper," Wendy said.
Hannah has been on oxygen since her birth on March 11, but she has no major medical conditions.
In addition to the many problems associated with a premature birth is the bond that's interrupted between mother and child. In a full-term birth, the mother has nine months to get used to the child growing inside her, but Wendy didn't have as much time as other mothers to develop that connection.
Even though modern medicine means feeding tubes and oxygen tanks, Wendy was able to have skin-to-skin contact with Hannah within six hours of her birth.
"You just don't realize how fragile life is not just infants, but humans. It makes you realize what's important and what's not. The petty things just don't even matter any more," Wendy said.
Jim's friends comforted him, commiserating at how long he was apart from his family. Jim said he didn't even think about that, all he kept praying for was Hannah's health.
After spending the the first 70 days of her life in hospitals, Hannah went home for the first time on Friday.
"It's great being out of the hospital, but now we don't have any of that high-tech equipment," Jim said.
"Bringing her in this house, I just couldn't help but cry. She's known two other places as her home, but it was really a good homecoming," Wendy said. "After being in a medical situation for so long, it's scary now. It's me, it's up to us now. It's scary to walk out that hospital door but wonderful to walk through our door."
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