Micro Preemie Who Survived a High-Risk Birth Is Now a Healthy Teen
Elaine Jewell Mason entered the world three months earlier than planned, weighing just 1.25 pounds — and small enough to wear her father’s wedding ring on her ankle. She was born at Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women and spent the first six months of her life in the newborn intensive care unit where she received around-the-clock care.
Premature babies like Elaine are known as micro preemies because they are born before 28 weeks gestation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, babies born too early — especially before 32 weeks — have higher rates of death and disability.
Thanks to advances in modern medicine and new technology, Elaine and other premature babies can survive and continue developing outside their mother’s womb.
Navigating a Complicated Birth
Nothing could prepare Kimlyn Mason for the day she learned her daughter Elaine was coming early.
“I knew I was going to have a high-risk pregnancy because I was 35 years old,” said Mason. “But everything was going fine. I had no blood pressure problems and no diabetes or infections. It was a good pregnancy — until I gave birth early.”
Mason, a certified surgical technologist, is familiar with labor and delivery. But she didn’t suspect anything was wrong until she finished her usual night shift at Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto, where she worked at the time.
“I was so tired,” said Mason. “My husband and I were supposed to go to bible study, but I didn’t go because I didn’t feel well. When he came home, I told him something wasn’t right. I went into the bathroom and lost my mucus plug.”
During pregnancy, the mucus plug accumulates to seal the cervix and protect the uterus. Losing the mucus plug is a sign that your body is preparing for labor, which may begin soon after or one to two weeks later.
Mason and her husband immediately drove to Baptist DeSoto. When they arrived, she was three to four centimeters dilated. Medical staff sent her to Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women.
“I learned I needed an emergency cesarean section and gave birth that Thursday,” said Mason. “I went home Sunday, but my daughter stayed in the hospital for seven months.”
Elaine spent six months at Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women, where she underwent surgery to repair a congenital heart defect and laser surgery to prevent blindness. Elaine spent another month at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital due to bronchopulmonary dysplasia, a severe lung disorder that affects premature babies.
A Bright Future
“Today, Elaine is 14 years old,” said Mason. “She’s a very active child. She wears glasses because she has scar tissue from her eye surgery. She’s still in speech therapy. As a baby, she was in physical therapy because she had some developmental delays, such as crawling, walking and talking. Therapists taught her how to sit up, roll over and crawl.”
Elaine, Kimlyn, her husband Dwight and their other daughter Elizabeth still attend NICU reunions to visit with doctors, nurses and health care staff who played a vital role in Elaine’s birth and follow-up care.
“I can’t even describe the level of care and love Baptist gave us,” said Mason. “The doctors, neonatologists, nurses and respiratory therapists were wonderfully hands-on. They told me Elaine would have good days and bad days. They suggested that I keep a journal, so I could read how her days went. That helped me tremendously. On a scale of 1 to 10, Baptist staff [members] were a 20.”
Like Mason, many women give birth to premature babies — and sometimes, doctors don’t know why. More research is needed to understand premature babies and micro preemies.
“This experience showed me things happen, and we don’t always have answers,” said Mason. “For people who are just starting this journey, I recommend keeping your faith. I relied on my husband, my family and church members. Rely on your faith. Stay grounded. Surround yourself with positive people who have traveled the journey.”