|From left: Ashleigh, Ramona, Jerrod, Abrianna, Jerrod Jr.|
It’s too soon to be in labor, I’m only five months along, she thought.
Two hours later, she called an ambulance to take her to the hospital.
“I told the paramedic to take me to the hospital my doctor was at, and he refused,” Ramona said. “I insisted that there was no way I was ready to have this baby; after all, I was only 23 weeks along. He then looked at me and very firmly said ‘Ma’am, if you have this baby now, this baby will not make it!’”
Ramona then agreed to be taken to the closest hospital to their location, Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital. “God knew what he was doing when he placed that paramedic on duty that morning,” she said.
When she arrived at the hospital, she was already two centimeters dilated. She was given medicine to stop the dilation, but it didn’t help. Her doctor discovered she had an infection called Group B Strep that brought on premature labor and could be passed to the baby. Her unborn daughter was given a 20 percent chance of living, and if she did live she might be mentally challenged. Ramona was devastated. The following morning, she delivered her daughter at 1 lb. 5 oz., and named her Ashleigh.
“I remember my husband wanted to see the baby right away, but I was afraid,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect. We finally saw her briefly, and she was so beautiful. Her body was in perfect condition.”
The doctor and nurses rushed Ashleigh to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) where machines would help her breathe and a tube inserted into her belly button would help with feeding.
“It broke my heart to see her that way,” Ramona said “I wished I could hold her and make her all better. I began to cry and blame myself, thinking maybe if I had taken better care of myself this wouldn’t have happened. I felt so guilty because I had worked while I was pregnant.” Her husband reassured her, telling her it’s no one’s fault and nothing they could control.
For months Ashleigh stayed in the NICU. She needed eye surgery to see, experienced trouble with her lungs, suffered head bleeds, and struggled with finding a formula that wouldn’t make her spit up. Despite her challenges, she grew bigger and stronger each day.
The day finally came when Ramona could hold Ashleigh for the first time. She would wear a gown that opened at the front and allowed Ashleigh to lie on her bare chest and learn her scent, which doctors and nurses called a kangaroo hug. “I was scared at first because there were so many wires and she was so small,” Ramona said. “Before long, she knew that I was her mommy and that she was much loved.”
On September 11, 2001, Ashleigh was able to come home from the hospital with prescriptions for six different medicines to be administered several times a day. Dr. Scott Tisdell, neonatologist on the hospital’s medical staff, stood over Ashleigh, smiling, and said “God is surely on her side.”
“You can’t even tell that she was premature,” Ramona said. “I just want other parents of premature babies to hear my story and have hope. It’s hard, but you have to keep on believing that through God all things are possible.”