Baby TJ weighed just one pound, four ounces, when he was born four months prematurely in May this year.
His mother, local Native Sons artist Nickola McCoy-Snell, was in her fifth month of pregnancy when she went through seven days of labour before being admitted to George Town Hospital where she was told she was about to lose her baby.
She was flown to Mount Sinai Hospital in Miami where her doctor carried out an emergency caesarean section to save both Mrs. McCoy-Snell and her baby, Terrence James, whom the family call TJ.
‘TJ was born at 10:33pm on 31 May. He was one pound, four ounces, and not expected to survive,’ she said.
‘The following day I got to see him for the first time. His complications were text book for a micro-preemie. He was placed on a ventilator to help him breathe as his lungs were so immature. He would eventually need heart surgery to close a main artery in his heart,’ the mother said in an email from Miami where she and husband Maurice are staying to be near their little son.
After the heart surgery, TJ’s lungs began to collapse, with both collapsing at the same time at one point. Hospital staff treated the tiny baby with steroids to strengthen his lungs and to help him get off the ventilator which did his breathing for him.
The baby is now double his birth weight at three pounds, six ounces, putting on eight ounces between 15 and 22 September ‘to the shock and amazement of his doctors and nurses’, his mother said.
In an update to friends and family, Mrs. McCoy-Snell said the biggest surprise came on Saturday when the baby pulled out his ventilator tube.
‘The doctors and nurses saw that he seemed to be doing pretty good, so they decided to put him on a CPAP which is a nasal tube that only adds a bit of pressure to remind him to breathe.
‘He is now taking all his own breaths with no assistance from the ventilator. He is receiving a bit of oxygen pressure. The doctors believe that this is the first step to a full move off assisted breathing.’
Unlike some parents who may dismay of a bawling baby, TJ’s parents were delighted to hear their son cry.
‘TJ is now able to cry, which he was not able to do before, due to the tube in his throat,’ his mother said, adding that since he has never heard himself cry before, the sound seems to scare him. ‘It is so funny to watch the surprise on his face. It’s also amazing to hear our son cry for the first time in three months.’
Young TJ is receiving physiotherapy and his therapist has told his parents that his reflexes are excellent, as he tries to kick and punch everyone who attempts to touch him, probably because he is afraid that a touch might lead to yet another needle.
‘Even with all this progress, we still have a long way to go and very grateful for all the love and support we are receiving, please continue to pray for us,’ Mrs. McCoy-Snell said. ‘We have made it this far on a lot of prayers and encouragement and we know that we will make it home with our little one.’
Fundraising for the family is already under way in Cayman to help cover the costs of the parents to stay in Miami with the baby, as well as to cover some of the escalating hospital expenses.
Mrs. McCoy-Snell is a prolific artist who was the first female artist to garner the prestigious McCoy Prize for artistic excellence in 2002.
The National Gallery, with Geraldine Morgan of the Morgan Gallery, is holding a raffle to raise funds, in which some of Mrs. McCoy-Snell’s artwork will be given as prizes. Four paintings will be raffled off and the draw will be held on 24 September. Tickets are available at Trisha’s Roses, the National Gallery and at the Morgan Gallery. Anyone willing to help, or seeking further information, can contact Mona Lisa Tatum-Watler, Communications and Marketing Manager of the National Gallery on telephone 945-8111.
Also, local charitable organisation Lean On Me is raising funds for the family and is organising a sunset boat cruise trip for 30 people on 13 September from the Cayman Islands Yacht Club. The deadline to sign up is 9 September. Tickets cost $35 and are available by calling 5254204 or 939 5693. The organisation is also accepting donations for the family.