Born Dangerously Premature At 23 Weeks Gestation, How My Daughter Overcame The Odds

In early 2010, after 2 years of struggling with infertility, my husband, James, and I discovered the joyous news… we were pregnant! Although it was my first, it seemed like a simple, routine pregnancy. There were no signs of complication, discomfort, or even the typical pregnancy struggles like morning sickness. However, that all changed on June 14, 2010 — when this normal pregnancy turned into anything but, as Madilynn Rose decided to make a very early entrance into the world.

Born at 23 weeks and 4 days gestation, just short of 6 months, Madilynn was dangerously premature. At birth, she weighed only 1 pound and 5 ounces and was 11 inches long. Even her eyes were fused shut. Given only a 30% chance of survival, we knew it would be an uphill climb, but our Madilynn was a fighter from the beginning.Tiny hand of premature babyDuring her stay at Texas Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), she faced numerous procedures and care from the multi-disciplinary team of specialists, as many of her organs struggled to survive. Her tiny body fought against chronic lung disease, retinopathy, a blood infection, bi-lateral inguinal hernia repair, blood transfusions and a platelet transfusion. This was paired with countless head ultrasounds, echocardiograms, intubations, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), X-rays, heel sticks, blood draws, shots and IVs.

Tiny foot of premature babyHowever, the most serious complications affected Madilynn’s growing brain — a grade IV bi-lateral hemorrhage and hydrocephalus (an accumulation of fluid), which led to the surgical placement of both a reservoir and shunt. It was an endless and difficult emotional roller coaster to endure as parents, but we knew Madilynn was getting the best care available, as she had access to all of the subspecialty care and surgery, all in 1 of the best facilities in the country.

Despite all of these severe challenges, Madilynn continued to progress and grow with flying colors, and after 119 days (nearly 4 months) in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Texas Children’s Newborn Center, we were finally able to bring Madilynn home. Although she still has therapy to help with a few developmental delays, Madilynn is now a very healthy and outgoing girl with a big personality that has brought our family so much joy!Haef family, Texas Children's Newborn Center


About Ashlee Haefs, mother of patient

After a seemingly normal and routine beginning to my pregnancy, my daughter was born dangerously premature at just 23 weeks gestation.

Thanks to the specialists at Texas Children's Newborn Center, Madylin beat the odds and is a growing, happy young girl.

Posted in Neonatology, Patient post, Pavilion for Women, Pregnancy, Surgery, Videos

14 Responses to Born Dangerously Premature At 23 Weeks Gestation, How My Daughter Overcame The Odds

  1. kenia Castro says:

    Hi wow yout baby is a miracle just like my Little Natalie she was born 23 weeks 3 days and weighted 1 lbs 3 ozs i know how scary it can be my daughter was in the NICU for 5 months and she went through alot. But like they sat girls are more tougher then boy :) im so happy to hear your baby girl is doing great. Best of luck

  2. Melba says:

    I am a surviving premature baby born three months early 62 years ago. I was born in a small town hospital in Mississippi. They, of course, had limited equipment to work with. They begin feeding me with a medicine dropper. Because of how my weakness,this was doing little to nourish me. I had three aunts who had just finished nursing school . They came in ,took over my care One of them had special training dealing with premature babies. She ran a tube to my stomach and began feeding me. I responded well and 99 days later went home. She also knew not to give me much oxygen because of the possibility of blindness. I thank God for putting these special aunts in the hospital where I was born and giving the wisdom to do what was needed to help this 1 pound 15 ounce baby thrive. I have been healthy all these years and had normal weight babies of my own. To God be praised!!

  3. Donnarie Campbell says:

    Your baby is Beautiful & I’m writing to encourage you; my grandson was born at 29 weeks gestation weighing a little over 2 pounds. This week we celebrated his 12th birthday & He’s noThing BUt a GREAT- ordinary , awesome kid with no repercussions to show from his traumatic entry into the world. Well, maybe he’s not “that ordinary “. He’s been on the A-B honor roll every semester of his school life, competed at the District Meet for Cross Country at his school & attained a red belt in karate by the time he was ten, something most kids don’t do until the age of 13. He was reading his mom’s Harry Potter books when in kindergarten – he’s, quite simply, just brilliant! Yet very “normal” in that he loves to hang out with friends & ride bikes, skateboard & play basketball in his town City League, too. (A sportsman AND a scholar!) In other words, Please let the story of our boy give you reason to hope & believe that your little one can have the life you always dreamed of. We KNOW she is a fighter & that strong will & spirit will serve her well the rest of her life. I know it’s been scary for you these first few weeks/months, but try not to dwell on that or be overprotective once you get home. It’s hard not to be, but she’s a survivor! As far as the future – my daughter left her body rest & heal for 7 years, but has since gone on to have a 2nd child that was full term & hopefully, if this should ever be something you want – it will happen for you too. I just wanted to offer you the story of Hunter as an encouragement. These precious little ones can overcome their horrendous starts to be INCREDIBLE kids! Much love to you & your beautiful baby!

  4. Tiesha says:

    Thats truely s blessing. My had my daughter on Feb 12,2013 she wasnt even due till May 20,2013 i was only 26&1day so she was 3 months early and i was told a myth by so many nurses and doctors that Wimpy White boys do lesser than African American Girls i dont know how true that is. But im just needing a little re assurance that my little Laila will pull thru.

  5. Raven says:

    Your story and pictures give me so much hope my daughter was born 6 days ago my doctor told me I was 24 weeks 5 days but the neonatal doctor told me she was only 23 weeks I’ve been having the hardest time in my life the things they tell u are so unbelievable hard to hear.!! She has almost identical problems as she did..!! Ur daughter is beautiful ansd your story helps me so much and brings so much more hope into my heart.!!

  6. Shannon says:

    I love her happy little face – Madilynn is truly a miracle! I too have a little miracle baby and can complete relate to the roller coaster ride you have described. Your story is wonderful and I especially looked for inspiring stories like this when my baby was in the NICU. I want to share mine briefly as well so that your readers can feel hopeful that a 23 weeker can survive and have a good life. Of course it isn’t easy and there are lots of really difficult days. I found the journey much less painful after I put total trust God’s will. I told Him that if it was his will to take my baby, then take him He shall. I prayed for strength for my baby and me. I was truly rewarded for my faith in Him.

    Sterling was born at 23 weeks 2 days and weighed 1 pound 5 ounces. The doctors at Children’s Hospital Minneapolis helped us brace for the fact that we may not ever be able to bring our baby home and if we did, he certainly would have problems. The odds were against our little Caucasian man but he didn’t give up and neither did we. During his first two weeks of life, he had his patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) ligated and developed necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Quite remarkably, he never experienced brain hemorrhaging or retinopathy. The NEC left him with an ileostomy for his first five months but the re-sect was perfect and his bowls are working as normal. Acid reflux lingered and caused some feeding issues.

    The ‘bumps’ we experienced along the way involved poor growth and under developed lungs. Eating was a struggle up until age five when his acid reflux and frequent tummy aches disappeared. Although Sterling is underweight for his age, he eats well now and enjoys healthy foods. He still drinks Pediasure daily just to get some easy calories into his busy body. We still use nebulizer treatments to get through colds more quickly.

    Our baby boy just turned six in June and is developmentally on par for his age. He is preparing for kindergarten in the fall. He writes his name and several other words and can even read a little. He doesn’t wear glasses or take any medications regularly.

    When a new nurse or doctor meets Sterling, they are completely in awe of his history. They ask lots of great questions and the word “miracle” is commonplace in the conversation. I love sharing his story because his life is nothing short of a perfect display of God’s grace.

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  8. TinaLouise Saunders says:

    My daughter just had twins, her due date was March 22, her water broke at 23 weeks and 2 days. She have a boy and girl weighing in at 1.3 and 1.4…Its now been 5 days, and so far so good. My little ones are holding on….Santana (boy) they just removed his tube (to help him breath) out yesterday, but Savannah (girl) is still on it. Im so scared…I need a support group…trying to be strong for my daughter but its sooo hard…

  9. Nicole Brown says:

    To God be the glory!!!! I am here to encourage anyone who is going through this… I suffered from incompetent cervix, I’ve lost 4 babies all around 16-20 week mark. I have a son born full term no complications so I wasn’t accepting this, and I could have prevented the loss of two, I prayed and prayed questioned God etc. FINALLY me and hubby decided to try the cerclage. At 14 weeks it was placed, I was home taking it easy, walking to fridge or bath room nothing major. At 23w exactly I had a weekly appt. for 17p shots and ultrasound, the night before I just didn’t feel right, this time my Dr. Decided to do a manual check, his reaction made my stomach drop, he’d seen hair!!! My baby girl was born 4 days later 1.4 pds 11 inches. Intubated for almost two months, CPAP one month, PDA litigation, ROP that has miraculously corrected itself!!! After 98 days in the NICU she was discharged 2days before Christmas 2014!!! She is our miracle I spoke life over my child And claimed healing in the mighty name of Jesus!!! As we speak she is trying to roll over and hold her own bottle her due date isn’t until Jan 9th 2015. Keep the faith God is in control of it all.

  10. Susie Patrick says:

    Thank you each for your stories. I gave birth to Journee (1 lb 8oz) and Joya (1 1b 2oz) at 23w5d, March 24. Your stories give me hope.

  11. Nashi Baby says:

    What an amazing little girl!! Thank you for sharing the story of your preemi baby

  12. Angela Howse says:

    Your story gives me so much hope. My little girl was born at 23 weeks at 1.4 pounds last Tuesday on May 5th, and my whole world is upside down right now. The emotions your husband gave is the exact thoughts through my head. It’s so inspirational to see the wonderful things God can do, and I thank you for your story it gives my Ayla bug much hope.

  13. Iftin says:

    Oh I’m glad to hear all you story . I had baby girl 23 and 6 days she was born 12-6-15 she is Heath baby she start sitting crowling don’t loose the hope

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