A ‘Max’imum Effort
More Than 100 Days in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Saves 1-Pound Infant
Jodi Kollias awoke from an emergency C-section to learn her twin daughter, Zoe, had not survived and her son, Max, in critical condition in AAMC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), might have only 48 hours to live.
For the 29-year-old optometrist from Crofton, this nightmarish reality was a sudden shock from the healthy pregnancy she had been experiencing until preeclampsia suddenly sent her blood pressure soaring, forcing the premature delivery of her fraternal twins at 24 weeks’ gestation.
Born Jan. 10, 2009, Max Louis Kollias arrived weighing 1 pound, 4 ounces. Twin sister Zoe weighed less than one pound, her tiny body and underdeveloped system too fragile to survive.
“They told me, ‘We have our team ready, and we’re going to do everything we can to save your babies,’” Mrs. Kollias recalled. That included quickly whisking Max out of the delivery room to AAMC’s Level IIIB NICU, a team of highly trained doctors, respiratory therapists and nurses at his side. Mrs. Kollias would later learn about Zoe from her husband, Chris, who was there when she awoke.
“They wheeled me into the NICU to see Max,” Mrs. Kollias recalled of the hours and days that followed. “But I couldn’t go; I’d just break down.”
Then, Mrs. Kollias said, a nurse stopped her and said, “I’m praying for you and your son, and you need to cherish every day you have with him.” Another nurse told her the best thing she could do for her son was to pump breast milk.
“I realized they were right,” Mrs. Kollias said. “I started pumping, I cherished every day. “I’m still pumping,” she added. “We bought two deep freezers and have hundreds of bottles of stored breast milk.”
Max’s condition progressed like that of many infants who have lengthy NICU stays, often one step forward, then two steps back. At day 60, he no longer needed a ventilator, but shortly thereafter required specialized eye surgery at Johns Hopkins, where he also was treated for a urinary tract infection.
Still too small to be discharged, Max returned to the AAMC NICU where a “welcome back” sign was awaiting his arrival. Homemade cookies were at the front desk for his parents.
“At AAMC, I felt like everyone knew him,” she continued. “I never felt like it was a stranger helping him or holding him.”
On May 21, 2009, little Max finally went home, more than two weeks after his original due date of May 2 and 131 days after he was born.
“He’s a miracle, and he’s otherwise healthy,” Mrs. Kollias said. “I’m happy to be a mom.”
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