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Prematurity Awareness Month-Kayla's Story

Kayla Ariana Dennis made her appearance into the world on March 23, 2000 at 11:25 a.m. weighing 1lb 11ozs and measuring 11 ½ inches long at 25 weeks gestation. It all began with my first pregnancy in 1987 when I went into premature labor and it was determined that I had an incompetent cervix. An incompetent cervix is when your cervix dilates too early during the pregnancy; this can lead to premature delivery. This can only be detected during pregnancy and occurs in about 1 in 100 pregnancies; I was in that number. That pregnancy was not successful and I gave birth to a baby boy at 25 weeks who did not survive. From that point forward, it was determined that I would need a surgical procedure known as a cerclage; a surgical procedure in which my doctor would stitch my cervix close to aid in sustaining pregnancy.


Fast-forward two years, I am pregnant again. Because of my previous history with premature delivery, it was determined that I would be a high-risk pregnancy and plans were made for the cervical cerclage procedure as soon as possible. This pregnancy was uneventful, the cerclage worked and at 37 ½ weeks I gave birth to a full-term healthy baby girl. Because this pregnancy was successful, in my mind this was the answer to the problem and I was “cured” or so I thought.


Fast-forward 10 ½ years later, I am pregnant again. Once again due to my previous history and now my age, who would have thought that at age 30 this would be a factor, I am deemed high risk. Plans are made again for the cervical cerclage and the surgery and pregnancy seemed to be progressing well. During a routine visit to my doctor, it was determined that my cervix had begun dilating and I would need to go to the main hospital for care.


Upon arrival to the main campus hospital, the OB on call determined that the only option was to attempt to stitch my cervix close again. This was a risky procedure as my amniotic sac was protruding and the risk of pricking the sac, causing my water to break and infection were even higher this time than previously. Surgery was successful and after spending three days in the Trendelenburg position (head lower than feet), I was discharged from the hospital under strict bedrest orders.


Day in and day out my time was spent in the bed. I was only allowed to go to the kitchen to get food that my mother had prepared and left for me. I was allowed to shower every other day as standing for long periods of time was not allowed. My daily exercise consisted of walking down the hallway to use the bathroom. It was a rare treat for me when I was allowed to sit up in a chair in the living room.


On the night of March 21st I began experiencing cramping in my stomach and began light spotting. I was reluctant to go to the hospital as this would involve waking my mom who had to work in the morning and waking my oldest daughter who had school. In the morning, after dropping my daughter off at school, my father took me to my doctor’s office, at this point, I just walked in to my appointments weekly to avoid sitting in the waiting room. My doctor immediately sent me to the main campus where they put me on a monitor. They kept me and monitored me all day unable to pick up the contractions I was experiencing. Later than night after trying to discharge me home when it was determined that delivery was inevitable, I was transferred to a hospital that could handle micro-preemies and on March 23rd my baby was born.


After 92 days (3 plus months) of praying to God, many medical setbacks, and plenty of CPR training for everyone that would care for her, we were able to bring my daughter home. Weighing in at a whopping 4lbs and 15ozs, we arrived home with oxygen and an apnea monitor that had to be on her at all times. It was not your normal fanfare you have when a full-term baby comes home, we were unable to have family and friends welcome us home as her tiny immune system could not handle the germs.


We were very fortunate to have a Shero AND a nursing staff who looked out for our best interest. If not for the staff at the NICU of the hospital I was transferred to, our story may have turned out a lot differently. Today my daughter is a smart, healthy young lady with no lasting deficits from her birth who will become a graduate of Kent State University this spring.


Black women in the U.S. are 50% more likely to have a premature baby than white women (PBS.ORG). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), babies born prematurely may experience long-term intellectual and developmental disabilities along with:

· Breathing problems

· Feeding difficulties

· Hearing and vision loss

· Cerebral palsy

The CDC also reports that preterm birth can lead to infant mortality and that black infants dies at more than two times the rate of white babies. We are blessed that is not our story, but this is why it is important to raise awareness of poor birth outcomes and to support organizations such as the March of Dimes, together we can make a difference.