Published on January 03, 2020

Born “extremely preterm” at Essentia Health, baby boy thriving 15 months later

Mikey Jarvi

Not yet into her third trimester of pregnancy, the last thing on Marie Jarvi’s mind as she ate breakfast with her young son, Riley, on Sept. 19, 2018, was going into labor.

Marie was just 26 ½ weeks along with her and husband Ryan’s second child. The little guy wasn’t due until Dec. 20. At the family’s Iron Range home north of Virginia that morning, she felt abnormal pressure and noticed bleeding. Marie called her obstetrician and was instructed to get to the emergency room at Essentia Health-Virginia immediately.

There, Marie was stunned to learn she needed an emergency C-section. It wasn’t safe for her to remain pregnant. Dr. Elizabeth Bard was her doctor in Virginia that day.

“Dr. Bard said, ‘We have to take the baby,’ and my heart just sank knowing that he was only 26 ½ weeks,” said Marie, an acute care nurse in the emergency room and intensive care unit at Essentia Health-Virginia.

Soon, she was being swarmed by coworkers, who were prepping her for surgery. “Organized chaos,” she called it. Personnel buzzed, including a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) team that had flown in a helicopter north from Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth, arriving mid-operation to make sure they were ready for delivery. At one point, Marie was about to be given general anesthesia, which she resolutely declined, instead opting for a “spinal.”

“If this is my only shot at meeting my baby, I want to be awake for it,” she reasoned.

Eventually, Marie and Ryan heard a faint cry that she likened to a cat’s meow. Their second son, nameless for two days until mom and dad agreed on “Mikey,” had entered the world weighing 2 pounds, 8 ounces — “the smallest baby I’d ever seen in my life,” she said. Because Mikey was born so prematurely, his lungs were underdeveloped and he was intubated promptly. Marie was able to hold him briefly before he was Life Flighted to Duluth.

Marie heard the helicopter spin into action from her hospital room.

“I just lost it because there goes my baby,” she said.

Two hours later, Marie was on an ambulance headed for Duluth. When she arrived, Mikey’s condition was critical, but stable. He ended up residing in the St. Mary’s NICU for 66 days, then spent another 36 days in the NICU at Children’s Minnesota in Minneapolis, where he had a procedure to close a hole in his heart called a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA).

More than a year later, Marie is beyond grateful for the decisive and compassionate care she received at Essentia Health in Virginia and Duluth.

“From the moment I walked into the Essentia Health-Virginia ER, I was greeted with compassion and promptness,” she said. “Every single person was professional and direct, as well as caring and empathetic. The doctor and surgery crew were amazing.”

That professionalism would only continue. Marie admits that despite working as a registered nurse for eight years, she initially was lost. It’s one thing to remain calm while caring for patients on the job, but when it’s your own child involved, emotions have a way of intervening and overwhelming rational thought.

“It’s the most uncomfortable feeling to all of a sudden feel so incompetent,” Marie said. “I couldn’t even grasp what they were saying.”

As Mikey progressed in Duluth, Marie says she and her family were “devastated” to leave. The NICU staff “became an extension of our family” over those two months. She credits “quick action and expertise at both Essentia facilities” for Mikey’s success. Today, he’s a “healthy, happy and chubby 1-year-old little guy.”

Asked the reason Mikey came so early, Marie said that remains a mystery.

“I guess he just needed to come and meet his family,” she said.

Like Riley, who Marie says has been the “best big brother,” Mikey is the product of in vitro fertilization. His embryo had been frozen for two years when Marie and Ryan decided to have a second child.

“He’s literally defied the odds since Day 1,” Marie said.

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