The baby’s story is compelling—birth and near-death played out at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colo.
And it is a major inspiration, an underscoring reason, for why local people will don their walking shoes April 26 and join walkers across the nation in the annual March of Dimes March for Babies.
Local walks start in Edora Park in Fort Collins and Bittersweet Park in Greeley. As usual, teams from PVH and Medical Center of the Rockies are signed up and ready to walk in the family-friendly event to raise awareness about premature birth and support March of Dimes research that benefits full-term and premature babies.
For Fort Collins residents Shari and Robert Kaczanowski the walk has great meaning. They have been designated the Larimer County Ambassador Family. They will speak at the Edora Park walk and talk about how March of Dimes research benefitted their family.
Here’s their story:
They were cautiously excited to add to their family when they learned that Shari was pregnant with their second child. Big brother Zeke was three years old when Shari found out she was expecting again. Zeke was born healthy at 38 weeks even though Shari developed preeclampsia during her first pregnancy.
Although Shari was considered high-risk during her second pregnancy—due to her previous experience with preeclampsia—the doctors said there was less than a 70 percent chance she would have the same outcome. Even with such good odds, the couple was nervous and still thrilled that they would soon add to their family.
At 30 weeks and three days, Shari was admitted to the hospital for bed rest because of elevated blood pressure. Unfortunately, Shari was one of the 30 percent and not only did preeclampsia strike a second time, it had progressed to HELLP Syndrome, a life-threatening pregnancy complication usually considered to be a variant of preeclampsia. Shari was immediately given a shot to help develop the baby’s lungs. Three days later Sterling was delivered via emergency Caesarian section.
Born at 30 weeks and six days, Sterling weighed two pounds and 14 ounces and was 15 inches long. In comparison, a Barbie doll is 11.5 inches tall; Ken, 12 inches. The average length of a newborn male baby is 20 inches; weight, 8.12 pounds.
A long stay in PVH’s NICU
Sterling’s lungs were underdeveloped and he was put on a ventilator and CPAP machine in PVH’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Due to her HELLP Syndrome, Shari remained hospitalized for the first two weeks of Sterling’s life while the doctors worked to get her blood pressure under control. Finally, after 10 days Shari was able to hold Sterling.
During that special moment, Shari was nervous and barely breathing while thinking that Sterling was all hands and feet. His tiny head was smaller than an orange, but it was covered with the blondest hair.
After 68 days in the NICU, Sterling was finally able to join his family at home. More than two months of spending time at work, with Zeke at home and then rushing to the NICU to be with Sterling culminated in a joyful end when Robert and Shari were able to have both boys under their own roof.
Even though those first days home alone, without the monitors, hospital staff and support, were terrifying for Shari and Robert, the couple overcame the transitional time and enjoyed watching their growing family.
Today: Healthy, happy
Today, at three-and-half years, Sterling is a healthy, happy boy. The only lasting issue he has from his prematurity is minor asthma. Although the first year of his life was spent on oxygen and the second overcoming significant early delays with the help of multiple therapies, today Sterling is a blossoming preschooler who is working with his teacher to compose and practice his March of Dimes Ambassador speech.
Shari and Robert say they are thankful that their family’s story has such a happy ending. They realize this is not the case for many families. They credit the March of Dimes with helping Sterling survive by funding research and other programs for premature babies and sick babies.