Carla Hicks' dream may come true as a Mother's Day treat - the thought of walking out the front doors of the Medical College of Georgia Hospital with her son, Elijah Hicks-Lewis, in her arms.
"(Mother's Day) will definitely be more special this year because I will be with my son," Hicks, 28, said Tuesday.
She will be spending today at the hospital, but doctors told her she may be able to leave with him sometime this week.
Elijah, bright-eyed and almost 7 months old, has spent his all of his short life in the MCG Neonatal Intensive Care Unit because he was born more than two months premature.
Hicks went into the hospital for observation suffering from preeclampsia, or toxemia, which caused her blood pressure to skyrocket despite medications. Because Elijah was having heart problems, Hicks had to make a tough choice - deliver early or both she and her baby could die.
Elijah, born Oct. 19, was only 1-pound 3 1/2 -ounces and 11 1/2 -inches long at birth. Hicks said his head was the size of a ping-pong ball and she could almost hold him in one hand.
Carla Hicks smiles as her father, Ernest, and her son, Elijah, spend time together at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital neonatal intensive care unit, where
the premature baby has gained weight and health.
Photo by Jonathan Ernst
Most of Elijah's list of health problems stem from his underdeveloped lungs, Hicks said. The condition is called bronchial pulmonary dysplasia - his lungs sometime just collapse, Hicks said.
"It is actually kind of rare that babies have it because now that they inject them with all the steroids and stuff like that," Hicks said. "Most babies don't have it, but he does."
Hicks' overwhelming optimism got her through Elijah's numerous surgeries including one to correct an underdeveloped sphincter muscle, two hernia operations, insertion of a feeding tube directly into his stomach and a tracheostomy, which scared Hicks the most.
"Ever since he has had it, he really hasn't had any major problems," Hicks said of the tracheostomy. "He has gained a lot of weight since he has had it. He weighs 7-pounds, 14-ounces now. He has three chins. He is just a pie face now. He smiles all the time. He has the most pleasant personality."
Hicks and Elijah's father, Calvin Lewis of Winfield, spend most days at the hospital feeding, caring for and talking to their baby boy.
Elijah's face lights up and his arms and legs start waiving when Mom enters the room as she did Wednesday to ask him if he was ready to go. Hicks and Elijah were transferred to a private room, where she will care for him for a solid week to make sure she can care handle it once they go home.
Elijah has made steady progress since Thanksgiving Day, when he weighed in at just 2 pounds. His mother asked him to put on another pound by Christmas.
"Christmas Eve I came up there and the nurses surprised me," Hicks said. "They took him from an isolette to a bassinet. He had little Christmas stockings on. He had hit 3 pounds on the head. He was listening. He is a good boy.
"Now, I see these babies that are 5, 6 or 7-pounds, average sized babies, I say, 'Wow, that baby is huge."'
Working and worrying about and visiting Elijah was too stressful, so Hicks and her family made a group decision she would quit work to care for him. She lives in Springlakes with her parents, Ernest and Bernice Hicks, who agreed to support her so she can support Elijah.
"Because of the trache (tube) and the G-tube and things like that, he is going to need 24-hour care anyway. That is my full-time job now," Hicks said. "Although I am going to have nurses to help and support me, we all as a family decided I would stop working and they would support me financially. I am glad they are in a position where they can."
Hicks doesn't plan to show Elijah off too much once she gets him home: his immune system is too susceptible to germs right now. Doctors told her that as his lungs get stronger, he will outgrow the machines and tubes - Hicks hopes by age 2.
Now, all she is worried about is getting him home.
"I am going to stay for a week," Hicks said Wednesday. "Then, when I get out, he comes out with me. I am coming home with him. (If they keep him), they are just going to have to keep the both of us."
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