Created on Monday, 24 December 2012 Written by Federico Martinez, Toledo Blade
TOLEDO — He came into this world after losing 90 percent of his blood. His body had already begun to shut down.
Grahame Burrow watches as his son Pierce plays with a birthday gift during their visit to ProMedica Toledo Children's Hospital. Pierce was delivered by cesarean section a year ago and immediately underwent a transfusion to replace the 90 percent of his blood that his body had lost.
It would take a miracle for newborn Pierce Anderton Burrow to survive, doctors told his parents during that tumultuous birth, which occurred Dec. 19, 2011.
To the surprise of everyone, five days later, on Christmas Eve, Kari Strausbaugh and Grahame Burrow were able to take home their healthy, fully recovered, “miracle baby.”
The thankful family recently returned to ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital on Pierce’s first birthday last week, to visit with the staff who may have saved his life. As a show of appreciation, the family also donated $2,500 to the hospital’s newborn intensive care unit.
“It was pretty emotional,” Ms. Strausbaugh said of her family’s Dec. 19 reunion with doctors and nurses. “There was a lot of hugging and thank yous and telling them what a difference they make.
“We have such emotional ties with them — they saved our baby.”
Ms. Strausbaugh was 38 weeks into a healthy pregnancy last year when she sensed something was wrong. Initially, she was hesitant to call her doctor.
“I noticed the baby wasn’t moving,” she said. “But as a mom you think, ‘I don’t want to be dramatic.’ ”
She was persuaded to visit her obstetrician for a nonstress test. There were signs that the baby could be severely anemic.
Ms. Strausbaugh was rushed to Toledo Hospital, where the decision was made to perform an emergency cesarean section, followed by a blood transfusion for the baby.
Doctors had discovered a massive fetal maternal hemorrhage of the placenta. The baby had lost an estimated 90 percent of his blood and was already in the second stage of the three phases of dying. His body had begun shutting down to preserve vital organs such as his heart and brain.
The doctors were compassionate, but honest, in their assessment: The odds of baby Pierce surviving weren’t good. Pierce’s parents struggled to deal with the situation.
“During the first 24 hours, you are in a little bit of self-denial,” said Ms. Strausbaugh. “I don’t remember having a total breakdown. It wasn’t until 48 hours later when they told us that he was stable that we just lost it.”
During the reunion last week, baby Pierce greeted doctors and nurses with outstretched arms and a big smile.
“It was magical,” said Christi Rotterdam, executive director of ProMedica’s Toledo Children’s Hospital Foundation, who was present during the visit. “It was great to see the nurses and doctors holding Pierce and being rewarded with a life they saved.”
Reunions aren’t common, but provide a welcome closure for hospital staff because they do develop emotional ties to their young patients, said Ms. Rotterdam. After Pierce was born, the nursing staff nicknamed him Miracle Baby.
During the visit, several doctors and nurses shared with Pierce’s family their own recollections of his birth.
One nurse recalled that, during the baby’s blood transfusion there was an employee shift change, and she had to leave. That night at home, the nurse couldn’t sleep because she was so worried about Pierce.
When she returned to work several days later, Pierce was gone, and the nurse initially thought that the baby had died. When she saw the family again, the nurse shared the joy she felt when she learned Pierce had survived.
Ms. Strausbaugh said she hopes her story encourages other expectant mothers to not be timid about reporting concerns during pregnancy.
“Still-births still happen,” she said.
Baby Pierce is doing well these days. His mother describes him as happy and friendly. He sleeps well at night and gets along well with his brothers, 2-year-old Kingston, 15-year-old Logan, and 18-year-old Emerson.
Pierce’s survival has made the family especially grateful during the Christmas season.
Someday, when he’s older, Pierce might “get sick of hearing the story” of his birth, Ms. Strausbaugh said with a laugh.
But, she said, she will never grow tired of telling the story, or of being thankful for her “miracle baby.”