Having a premature baby is a very real struggle that many of our RMH families endure. Each new day brings about the psychological ups and downs that wear these new parents down. Crystal and Jon Ipe of Sarasota knew early in Crystal’s pregnancy that things were not going to be easy for their new child, and they were right.
Crystal was sick almost from the start of her pregnancy. Her small stature had doctors worried from the beginning. To prepare themselves for a difficult pregnancy, the family had a plan starting at the six month mark in case she gave birth early. Shortly after learning their baby was a boy, Crystal felt a shift in her body. She innately knew that her baby was going to arrive early.
Life went on for the Ipes and they moved forward with buying a house. Crystal also scheduled her baby shower early, just in case. But as luck would have it, Crystal was hospitalized just one day before the shower. An ultrasound showed that Crystal was in the first stages of preeclampsia and she was immediately admitted to Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Her blood pressure was dangerously high, and tests revealed that one third of her placenta had died. The baby was going into distress and the doctors were concerned Crystal might have a stroke or heart attack. No one can imagine the anguish and anxiety Crystal must have felt to hear this news through the blur of pain and medication.
A few hours later the doctor came in and said that it was “go” time as they had determined that Crystal’s life was in jeopardy. All that this expectant mother hoped to hear was the cry of her newborn son, and thankfully she got her wish. It was a very weak cry, but the most beautiful thing Crystal Ipe had ever heard. Jon Wyatt Ipe was born on November 15, 2014 at 27 weeks old, weighing just 2.2 pounds.
Crystal was hospitalized for one week following the birth, and monitored regularly by her doctors due to high blood pressure. Baby Wyatt had greater issues to overcome before he could be discharged, and it was touch and go for several weeks. On December 10th, Crystal and Jon called the hospital to check on their baby and were told that Wyatt had declined. They quickly called all their family to give them this horrendous news, Wyatt might not make it.
The new parents and family members drove to the hospital, fearing the worst. When they arrived, the family was stunned to see the baby. Crystal tearfully recalls, “It’s like he was dying before our eyes.” The doctors said there was nothing else they could do, but offered one last chance, transport to All Children’s Hospital (ACH) in St. Petersburg, FL. The entire family visited baby Wyatt that day at Sarasota Memorial where in their hearts they said their goodbyes to this beautiful little boy who they feared would never get a real chance at life.
Before they transported the baby, they put him into a medically induced coma and ordered an ambulance because a helicopter cannot transport a patient on the type of ventilator he was on. Since they had to pull over numerous times to treat the infant, the trip took more than three hours, by which time the panicked parents were already waiting at the hospital.
When Wyatt arrived at ACH, he was in a coma and completely paralyzed. Doctors warned that Wyatt’s lung issues were severe and they were unsure if he could survive. Somehow, the parents held onto the hope that their little boy could make it, despite enduring five separate talks with doctors about taking him off life support.
Crystal comments, “Wyatt has come close to death many times, and it amazes me how hard he fought to live, he’s taught me to never give up.” During this ordeal the Ipes stayed at RMH Central so they could be close to their baby. “I can’t explain enough how much the Ronald McDonald House and the people there made our terrifying journey somewhat less stressful. We knew we could get away but not be too far from him and that made things easier. Everyone is so sweet and caring, always asking how I was doing. That was nice since most people routinely asked simply how Wyatt was doing. The staff and volunteers became our second family and I am forever grateful for Ronald McDonald House.”
Baby Wyatt was diagnosed with chronic lung disease due to premature birth. He went from having a 4% survival rate to now being a very happy 18 month old baby. He has a tracheostomy tube to help him breathe and a gastrostomy tube to ensure that he gets proper nutrition. In his short life, Wyatt has undergone several surgeries to overcome his deficiencies, but the future looks promising. Time should allow his tiny lungs to heal and he will continue to thrive. After staying 70 nights at RMH, including 23 nights just this year alone, the Ipes look at the world through very different eyes. They join the many parents who feel thankful for our houses at a time they needed us most.