‘Deep roster’ of providers helps care for premature baby

Lennon Sabo, born at 28 weeks, survived hydrops and spent nearly 4 months in NICU

Smiling baby eats a lemon.

In September of 2020, Kristi and Ty Sabo learned to take things day by day.

Because for nearly four months, they didn’t have any other option.

Born 12 weeks early

Their daughter Lennon was born at 28 weeks. Pregnancies often last until 40 weeks, and if a baby is delivered before 37, the child is considered premature.

“Being born this early, she didn’t have time to develop all her organs and her anatomy, and everything in general. That was a lot of the issues that we were dealing with. And, with being so small, she was catching infections left and right while we were in the NICU (newborn intensive care unit),” Kristi Sabo said.

Specialty care for newborns: Neonatal intensive care at Sanford Health

Lennon was born in Rapid City, South Dakota, where the Sabos call home. Originally, the Sabos’ doctor wanted them to give birth across the state, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“My maternal fetal medicine (MFM) doctor wanted us closer to a place that had pediatric surgeons in case anything was needing to be done after delivery. We have zero pediatric surgeons or specialties here,” she said.

After eight days, Lennon and her mom flew to Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, “for a higher level of care,” Sabo said.

Life threatening diagnosis

When she was born, Lennon was diagnosed with hydrops, a condition where fluid accumulates in different parts of an infant’s body. She originally weighed three pounds, 15 ounces at birth. However, providers drained one pound of hydrops fluid from her abdomen. She weighed less than two pounds.

“Even with treatment, more than half of babies will die shortly before or after delivery. Lennon had immune hydrops, which occurs when the blood types of mom and baby aren’t compatible with each other. My blood cells were attacking and destroying her red blood cells,” Sabo said.

Dr. Suzy Reuter is a neonatologist at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls. She said since hydrops is such a serious condition, she and other providers helping Lennon were concerned Lennon wouldn’t make it.

“Hydrops can reach up to 90% mortality. We were absolutely concerned that was a real outcome,” she said.

Not only dealing with hydrops, Sabo said Lennon was catching “infection after infection” while she was in the NICU at Sanford Health.

Lennon’s deep roster

While at Sanford, an entire team of specialists was working with Lennon.

“It’s hard to fully quantitate how many departments within Sanford helped Lennon,” Dr. Reuter said.

“Pediatric urology, pediatric nephrology, she had pediatric cardiology involved too. Pediatric infectious disease doctors, a pediatric radiologist reading all of her imaging. Within the NICU, we have occupational therapists, physical therapists, case managers, PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy), all of these people were integral into the care of this complex baby,” she added.

It gave Sabo comfort knowing there were so many experts on her side, but also said it felt very overwhelming at times.

“When I need to message her doctors, it is really interesting because I have to scroll through about 20 different people. That was the hardest part of my life. Not only being away from my family – I’m five hours away from my life, but also having to still be checking up on a sick kiddo in the NICU,” she said.

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Despite being away from her immediate family, she made another family at Sanford.

“I’m there every day. I learned my nurses, I could request my favorite nurses and say ‘hi’ in the hallway. The doctors, I was always excited to see who was on which week. You just get to know people, and sometimes I didn’t always like to talk about how Lennon was doing. And sometimes I found a distraction in talking with doctors and nurses and specialists asking, ‘well, what did you guys do this weekend?’ So, it was nice to be bonded with them in that way,” she said.

Sabo said she had no choice but to be patient and take things day by day.

“It felt like it was always two steps forward, three steps back. That’s just kind of how you lay it out. We didn’t want to look four days ahead. How is she doing today? What can we focus on today,” she said.

Lennon goes home

Sabo said Lennon continued to improve and get stronger. Then finally, after 118 days in The Castle, Lennon got to go home.

“We always said that we wanted to see Lennon run up and down our hallways, and after everything we’d been through, we just never thought it was going to happen. When it finally happened, and it’s one of those things where we asked, ‘Is this real life?’

“We looked at each other and said, ‘this is our life now.’ This is happening. We’ve made it this far. She’s a miracle,” Sabo said through tears.

Lennon is currently a happy and healthy 2-year-old girl, with a full life ahead of her.

The Sabos, and their team at Sanford, couldn’t be happier.

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Posted In Children's, Here for all. Here for good., Sioux Falls, Specialty Care