Micropreemie gets to go home after 137 days in NICU

Henry Gajeski, now 8 months old, weighed less than one pound at birth

Micropreemie gets to go home after 137 days in NICU

The Gajeski family of Emerado, North Dakota, has spent their fair share of time at Sanford Health this year. Last May, Jadeyn Gajeski went to her 20-week pregnancy checkup in Grand Forks. That’s when her world turned upside down.

“They did the ultrasound and they saw that my cervix was shortened to nothing. It was unmeasurable is how they worded it,” Gajeski said. “They stitch your cervix, just try to hold baby in longer. It did not last.”

At just 22 weeks and three days of her pregnancy, Gajeski was rushed to Sanford Medical Center in Fargo to give birth. Her son was immediately taken to Sanford Fargo’s Level IV neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), the only facility in the region capable of caring for a baby born so early.

“It’s very scary and it just doesn’t seem real that you’re actually going to have a baby so soon. You know, you were just celebrating. You’re halfway through your pregnancy and here you are. So you have no idea how it’s going to go. It’s terrifying,” she said.

On May 21, Henry Gajeski was born 18 weeks early. He weighed just 15 ounces.

“You can’t breathe. Your chest is tight. You’re just constantly worried. And then you see him and he’s see-through and he is hooked up to all these things,” Gajeski remembered, fighting back tears. “You don’t think you’re going to come home with a baby. You really don’t.”

Dedicated NICU team

That’s where Mohamed Mohamed, M.D., and the NICU team at Sanford Health come in.

“We love babies. We love premature babies, and that’s the not only the physician, it’s all the staff,” said Dr. Mohamed. “We’re a very dedicated team to take care of this baby.”

Babies born at 22 weeks are at the limit of viability, with the national survival rate sitting around just 30%. Dr. Mohamed says Sanford has seen about a dozen premature babies like Henry in the past five years. And their survival rate is about 60%.

“We have a micropreemie program, which is a specialized program to take care of the little ones,” Dr. Mohamed said. “The smaller you are, you’ll have immature organ systems and that includes the brain, the small intestine, the lungs, the heart and the skin, the immune system. Every system might cause or pose a risk of having a life-threatening event. In the case of Henry, he needed to be on the breathing machine right away. And he stayed on the breathing machine for two months.”

‘He’s a miracle’

Little Henry went through a lot at Sanford. He survived a perforated bowel, an infection of the heart, and even now as a relatively healthy baby, he has had to have eye surgery for a condition called retinopathy of prematurity.

In total, Henry spent 137 days in the Sanford Fargo NICU. Now though, he is 8 months old, bringing joy to his parents Jadeyn and Andrew every single day.

“It really makes you feel like you have a miracle in your hands,” Jadeyn Gajeski said. “He is the strongest boy I know. I mean, he’s just amazing. I know he is really meant to be here.”

For Dr. Mohamed and the Sanford staff, seeing Henry healthy after all this time brings its own joys.

“We put the effort, and we work hard toward having a good outcome,” said Dr. Mohamed. “But when I see Henry now in front of me and he’s interacting and he’s doing very well, this is what gives me joy for my job.”

And for the Gajeskis, there truly is nothing like holding their little boy.

“It’s the best thing ever. I mean, you just look at him randomly at home and you get tears. You do,” Jadeyn Gajeski said. “Because he’s a miracle.”

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Posted In Children's, Fargo, Grand Forks, Pregnancy, Women's