The day she was born, Emily Kate Kaczanko weighed in at less than a pound — so tiny that her father’s wedding ring could slide over her arm, according to Dr. Rajeev Dixit, one of the doctors who cared for Emily at in Naperville.
On Thursday, the six-month-old reunited with some of the doctors and nurses who helped save her life.
“She’s doing great,” said dad Rick Kaczanko.
Today, baby Emily tips the scale at 8 pounds, 5 ounces — still small her for her age, but growing, her dad said.
A surprise birth
Emily’s early delivery was a shock to the family, which includes mom Kelly and son Jonathan, 4.
Kelly Kaczanko was 27 weeks pregnant when she went in for what she thought would be a routine doctor’s visit.
Though she showed no sign of preeclampsia, which she had with her first child, Kelly had elevated blood pressure, Rick said. As a precaution, her doctor sent her to the hospital for observation.
As hospital staff monitored her, they warned her that she might have to spend the rest of her pregnancy on bedrest, Rick said.
But the baby's slow heart rate became a concern for doctors.
“They decided to deliver that night,” Rick said. “It was just overwhelming. It was scary, but we knew we were in the right place.”
Baby Emily was delivered by Caesarean section at 8:47 p.m. Jan. 11, 2012, weighing just 15 ounces and measuring 12 inches in length.
Though she was initially placed on a ventilator, dad Rick said Emily quickly showed her feisty spirit, and was breathing on her own by the next day.
The family faced a set back in February when the tiny infant developed necrotizing enterocolitis, an intestinal disease that can occur in premature babies.
“It’s common in really young preemies,” Rick said, although Edward staff told him they typically see about 12 cases per year.
“Luckily, they knew what to look for,” Rick said.
Baby Emily underwent two lifesaving surgeries at the hands of Dr. Donald Liu, the first in late March and the second May 11.
Tragically, Liu did not get the chance to see Emily’s progress during the Aug. 9 reunion. The elite pediatric surgeon died Aug. 5 after plunging into rough Lake Michigan waters to save two boys who had fallen out of a kayak.
The Kaczanko family was shocked to hear of the surgeon’s death, Rick said.
“It’s heartwrenching,” said Brian Davis, vice president of marketing and government relations.
A growing baby girl
But like the two boys he died saving, Liu’s legacy will live on in Emily, who has made great progress.
After 142 in the NICU, baby Emily went home on May 31, weighing 5 pounds, 4.2 ounces and measuring 17-1/2 inches long.
Rick said the little girl, who was greeted warmly by Edward doctors and nurses Thursday, is on track developmentally and is steadily growing.
“She’s developing normally for a preemie,” he said, adding by the time Emily came home, she was off all of her medications. “She was only discharged with a vitamin supplement.”
Every two weeks, Emily returns to Edward for a session with physical therapist Julie Loos, who helps her roll and stretch and move.
“She’s doing really great,” Rick said.
To view photos of baby Emily's journey, visit www.kaczanko.com/emily/.