One mother’s pregnancy appeared to be going smoothly when she had her scan at 22 weeks.
But 34-year-old Paloma Aguilar was shocked when just hours later her waters broke, putting her and her unborn son’s life in danger.
Paloma, who is originally from Mexico and has three older children, recounted the dizzying chain of events that unfolded on March 22nd.
“We had an ultrasound on a Friday when I was 22 weeks and one day pregnant and everything seemed normal.
“Then at midnight on Friday evening my waters broke and I went to the hospital early on Saturday morning.
“When I arrived they told me I was an inch dilated and the baby was not viable.”
The best advice medical professionals could give Paloma, who refused to give up her son, was to try to delay her birth.
But the mother already had an infection that put both of their lives in danger.
She explained: “I got chorioamnionitis [an infection of the placenta].
“They brought in a team of specialists and finally agreed that I should stay in the hospital and be on bed rest for as long as possible.
“But they made it very clear that if this infection progressed they would stop monitoring the baby as I already had an infection. At that point, their only concern would be to save me.”
While Paloma tried to delay her birth, her baby son seemed determined to be born sooner rather than later.
Little Eli James did so at 11:30pm this Sunday, less than two days after his mother’s water ruptured, and weighed just 1lb 3oz.
Doctors had previously told Paloma that if Eli had been born at 23 or 24 weeks gestation, his chances would have been much better.
By this time, the situation had deteriorated to the point where Eli was taken off the monitors as, as feared, Paloma’s infection had progressed to bacteremia — when bacteria enters a person’s bloodstream — causing a fever.
“They said even if they put me on steroids for Eli’s lungs it wouldn’t really do much,” she added. “At that point, they actually disconnected Eli from the monitors.
“But luckily, when Eli was born, he tried to breathe on his own.
“I had an ultrasound done beforehand. The doctor stepped aside and said, ‘He’s practicing breathing in there, it shows, and that’s very rare with his pregnancy.’”
The plan was to give Paloma a cesarean section so that Eli would have as little stress as possible, but his delivery was so quick that it never happened.
Paloma revealed, “It was actually pretty painful even though he was little because it was so quick.”
“Even though I was told not to push, once the team was out I kept saying, ‘I feel a lot of pressure – I feel a lot of pressure.’
“So I didn’t have anything that could help me with the pain. He was just getting out on the bed when the nurse barely came in to see me.”
“They showed it to me briefly before taking it away.”
What followed was an incredibly difficult time for Paloma and her husband Eliesar, 45, as Eli began fighting for his life.
Eli was so small that his arm was the size of Paloma’s finger, and she could see through his body, which was so tiny that medics tried to treat him with the smallest needle in the country.
She explained: “When I saw him, it was scary.
“But I always have faith. I had faith that if he made it this far, he would be strong.”
“Even got a PICC line [used to administer medication and nutrition] in him was uncanny. The doctor told me that they had brought the smallest needle in the country, which was as thin as a piece of hair, and even that was too big to fit through his veins.
Paloma said Eli’s incredible fight for his life lasted several months and although he was “largely stable”, one evening paramedics again feared for his life.
“At one point he got really sick and they called us to the hospital at 3 a.m. because he wasn’t well,” Paloma revealed.
“There were always ups and downs, but for the most part he was stable.”
One of the keys to Eli’s survival was breast milk — so much so that Paloma’s husband had to sign a consent form to use someone else’s breast milk if she hadn’t managed to produce milk herself.
Thankfully, Paloma was able to feed Eli himself the nutrition he needed, but she had the added benefit of being given Prolacta – a breast milk-based tonic sourced from donors.
She said, “While I was pumping, they added Prolacta so he could get extra nutrients.”
“This has been a blessing for us because some hospitals don’t offer it – I know some of these babies unfortunately have a different outcome when they only have cow-based tonics.”
“It was just such a blessing for us to receive this and I believe from the bottom of my heart that it made a difference in Eli’s journey.”
Little Eli is now a little over a year old.
The Las Vegas, Nevada housewife said: “He’s just starting to walk and he’s saying his first words – dad was first. Everyone was surprised by his progress.”
“Although he’s a bit smaller than most annuals, he’s catching up pretty quickly.”
Paloma said the only sign of Eli’s difficult start in life were small scars on his body, but that he was otherwise a perfectly healthy baby – although doctors had warned parents he could have disabilities if he survived.
Paloma said she advises all other parents who find themselves in a similar situation to take it one day at a time.
“Take it one day at a time,” she said, “and be proactive with the doctors and nurses.” Because we’re so grateful to the team we had for explaining the importance of nutrition and being present. “