Kingwood ICU Nurse to Celebrate First Birthday of "Miracle Baby"
Kingwood Medical Center ICU Nurse Heather Luper knew that pregnancy probably wouldn’t be easy for her. As an asthmatic, breathing problems and heart palpitations meant that the pressure pregnancy would put on her body could be dangerous. Unfortunately, her greatest fears came true.
"My asthma had gotten out of control and had started to affect my heart, then I developed bronchitis" said Luper. Admitted to the hospital, Luper’s heart beat out of control for two weeks. "I felt every single beat for two weeks straight," she said. "I would sit up in bed and my body was moving with the force of my heartbeat. It would shoot up to 170 beats a minute."
Anxious and scared, Luper’s condition went from bad to worse. "I tried so very hard to keep him in me. But when I started not being able to talk because I was so short of breath, my heart began to fail, and I lost my peripheral vision, it was time to take him. I had every right to be scared out of my mind, but I wasn't. I knew the precious life inside me would be okay because God was with us, holding my hand through all of it," Luper said. Wyatt Luper was delivered after 28 weeks of gestation, weighing just two pounds, eight ounces.
"When I woke up I was still in the operating room, so I helped them move me from the table to my bed. I still had not seen my son," remembered Luper. "Since he was only at 28 weeks gestation, they took him straight from me to the room next door and started working on him. I asked the labor and delivery nurse what his Apgar scores were, and I remember her saying eight and nine, which are insanely good."
"I was wheeled back to ICU and had to recover there. I wanted to see him so badly, but it was out of the question," said Luper. "Due to today's technology, a few hours later I got to meet my son via FaceTime. I was mad and envious of all of the other moms. I felt like I shouldn’t have to share him yet, he was supposed to still be just mine. When you have a baby that early, so many emotions are involved, but what people don't talk about is mourning the loss of the end of your pregnancy. I had just started to feel him really move around. I didn't even have a big belly. But ready or not, he was here. Two and a half pounds of Baby Hulk, fighting to breathe on his own."
Wyatt was immediately rushed to the NICU and put on CPAP so he could breathe. Two days later, with Hurricane Harvey lashing the Gulf Coast and his mom still in the ICU, Wyatt began to deteriorate. He needed more blood, more help, and a quiet atmosphere. The next day, the baby was airlifted to St. David’s Medical Center, our sister facility in Austin, where he would spend a week and a half away from his parents.
Once he was stable and the storm had passed, Wyatt was flown back to Kingwood, where he would spend a total of 75 days in the NICU before being discharged Nov. 26. But the drama wasn’t over. Wyatt continued to battle, experiencing severe apnea. He had to be resuscitated twice after becoming apneic. Airlifted from Kingwood to The Woman’s Hospital of Texas, Wyatt spent another 31 days in the hospital.
"We went through a few months where he was in and out of hospitals," said Luper. After being fitted with a gastrostomy tube this past spring, Wyatt hasn’t been back to the hospital since April and now weighs about 20 pounds. Luper returned to work at the ICU part-time, as Wyatt still requires a lot of care. But Luper is thankful for her nursing training. "I honestly believe that our son wouldn’t be alive if I wasn’t a nurse," she said. "Since I am in critical care, I get focused. I put the mommy part aside and become a nurse. His doctors know that I know what I am talking about. I’ve been very blessed to be a nurse."
As for Luper herself, the pregnancy left her with lingering health issues. She’s been sick off and on, and her doctors have told her she can’t risk another pregnancy. Thinking back to those terrible days, when they didn’t know if Wyatt was strong enough to survive, is bittersweet for Luper and her husband.
"It was definitely different being on that side of things! I look back on the pictures of me waiting to go to the operating room to have him, and I can finally see how sick I was. It doesn't even look like me. I was so swollen and pale. The looks on people’s faces make sense to me now – I looked awful," Luper joked. "But I work with an amazing group of Kingwood Medical Center nurses, and I thank God for all of them. They were wonderful!"