Miracle Baby No. 3.

Alix Young got an early start at life, born at just 23 weeks and six days. This is the story of her journey home.

Alix Young was born in May 2021, giving her parents the baby girl they’d hoped for when they decided to try for a third child. Alix has two proud big brothers — Calix, 5, and Lennix, 3. The names of all three children are intentionally spelled with an “ix” to represent the Roman numeral nine, which mom, April, said has special significance in their lives.

“It seems to pop up all the time,” April said. “My husband and I met on the ninth. We got married on the ninth. It’s always there. So we decided we were going to weave that into all their names.”

Alix, too, has a connection to nine: Her original due date was Aug. 27 — two plus seven equals nine.

Our hero’s journey

April’s third pregnancy was different than the others from the very beginning.

“I couldn’t eat anything. I couldn’t stand the smell of anything,” she said. “I had to do a couple of emergency visits because I wasn’t getting enough nourishment. I was vomiting up blood. They ended up putting me on nausea medication.”

April was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, which causes severe vomiting during pregnancy. At first, she could only eat ice chips. She eventually graduated to fruit and salads. She never felt well, but she accepted it as part of her pregnancy journey. Then, halfway through her pregnancy, April and her family planned a trip to the beach to celebrate Calix’s fifth birthday. It was scheduled for May 8, 2021, but three days before the trip, April started having headaches. She had suffered from preeclampsia, a pregnancy condition characterized by high blood pressure, when she was pregnant with Calix and was taking baby aspirin as a preventive measure. At the same time, she couldn’t keep much of anything in her system. She couldn’t be sure the aspirin was able to take effect. 

April decided to stop by a drug store to check her blood pressure. The moment she stuck her arm in the machine, it blazed red. Her blood pressure was over 167. April went home and called her obstetrician, who told her to come in for further testing. The doctor found protein in her urine, and her blood pressure continued to fly off the charts. The trip to the beach was officially off.

At Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center, April’s team tried to stabilize her condition. They gave her magnesium and a steroid shot. But it wasn’t long before they told her they had to perform an emergency C-section. She was just 23 weeks and six days pregnant.

The Hemby difference

Those hours in the hospital were terrifying.

“I was frustrated, upset and anxious,” she recalled. “I’d had some numbing medication, but I do remember asking about survival rates and risks of her being born with disabilities. And they said, ‘Just focus on staying calm, and we’re going to get through this. We have children in the NICU who were born at 23 weeks, and they’re doing just fine.’ So we were thinking, ‘It will be just fine.’”

The early signs were encouraging: When Alix was born, she cried, which is rare for a baby born so early.

“I heard her quite clearly, and I remember the team saying, ‘Wow, she’s got lungs on her,’” April recalled. “When she got to the NICU, they let me hold her inside of the incubator, and it didn’t register to me that she was 1 pound, 6 ounces. Her eyes weren’t open. She was just this frail body, a shadow of bones and a little bit of skin,” April said. “Now when I look at her and I look back at pictures, I just cry. It’s hard for me to envision that’s where she was, even though we’ve come so far.”

The journey wasn’t easy. In the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), Alix had two blood transfusions. She was on oxygen for three months and two weeks.

“There were many times when I would burst into tears,” April said. “One time, my middle child had a cold, and I was with him for most of the day. When I went to the hospital to visit Alix that day, I had in my mind that I wasn’t going to hold her. But I went there, and I forgot. I had her in my arms for eight minutes when something clicked.”

Through tears, April told them her son was sick, and they quickly assured her everything would be OK. They sanitized Alix’s bed, changed her sheets and wiped her down.

“It was very intense, and they were super patient with me and comforting and empathetic,” April said. “It was really an amazing moment. Nothing can compare to the support that you get in that unit. Those women and men are amazing — truly amazing.”

Our hero today

Alix came home from the NICU on Aug. 27, her due date, and she’s doing “phenomenal.”

“She’s about 10 pounds now. She’s smiling. She is very feisty. She likes to be held all the time when she’s awake. She sleeps through the night. She’s drinking 6-ounce bottles. She’s doing amazingly well,” she said.

April still stays in touch with the nurses she got to know and love over Alix’s four months in the NICU. She texted them a picture of Alix just a few weeks ago to show off her progress.

“Our support team was top tier, which is so important at a time when you’re so isolated. It’s a lot on you, mentally and emotionally, and they absolutely understand that,” April said. “They are so patient and kind with all your questions. You can just tell they genuinely love what they do.”

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