NRL News

Baby girl born at just 23 weeks adopted by NICU nurses who cared for her

by | Apr 23, 2024

By Right to Life UK

Two married nurses who work on a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in Nebraska have adopted a little girl who received care in their unit for eight months.

Taylor and Drew Deras met through working in the NICU and married in 2020. The following year, baby Ella was born at just 23 weeks and 1 day at the hospital they worked in. Taylor was one of the nurses on the team supporting Ella, having signed up to be her constant caregiver.

“I knew I kind of wanted that challenge as a nurse to be able to take care of her and kind of see where things would go and what she would do”, Taylor said.

“I don’t know if she’ll make it”

Ella weighed just over 1lb when she was born. She had bronchopulmonary dysplasia affecting her lungs and required lots of medical support including blood transfusions.

“She was intubated for multiple months at a time”, Taylor said. “She was just very sick. There [were] times where the doctors would tell us, ‘Watch her. I don’t know if she’ll make it through the night tonight’”.

Taylor’s husband Drew also formed a bond with Ella as he stepped in to look after her for certain shifts.

“I would say the first four or five months was really critical with her, and I had her a lot of those days, so I just got to know her, and I got to know her biological mom, too, and she grew to trust me, and I grew to trust her and her choices that she was making”, Drew said.

In spite of multiple health challenges, Ella started to make good progress.

“Eventually, she kind of pulled out of it, got better, and started eating from a bottle [and] was on just a little bit of oxygen support”, Taylor said.

“This child needs me and I need them”

Several months after her birth, Ella became a ward of the state. When the Derases learnt this, they offered to become the little girl’s foster parents.

Taylor said “As she became a ward of the state, I actually turned to Drew and I was like, ‘I really do care for her and I want to bring her home and care for her as our child’”.

“So it was, I loved her as my patient, and then once we became foster parents, I loved her as my own child”.

Drew added “As a foster parent, it was just like, the guard that you had prior to protect yourself of not falling in love with someone else’s child, it just fizzled away, and you’re just like, ‘OK, this child needs me and I need them’”.

Ella was discharged from hospital after around 11 months, and the following year was adopted by the Derases on National Adoption Day. Today, Ella’s parents report that she is thriving and her health continues to improve.

“Now, she’s walking and talking and meeting developmental milestones that a two-year-old would do. And she’ll start preschool in the fall”, Taylor said.

Survival rates have improved for babies born below the abortion limit

At just over 23 weeks, Ella was born below the current UK abortion limit of 24 weeks. The last time the abortion limit was reduced in 1990, the improved survival rates for extremely prematurely born babies was one of the key considerations that motivated this change. By the same logic, and informed by the improved survival rates for babies born at 22 and 23 weeks gestation, the abortion time limit should also be reduced now.

A 2008 study looking at survival rates for a neonatal intensive care unit in London found that neonatal survival rates at 22 and 23 weeks gestation had improved over time. In 1981-85, no babies who were born at these gestational ages survived to discharge. However, by 1986-90, 19% did and this increased to 54% in the period 1996-2000.

In the decade to 2019 alone, the survival rate for extremely premature babies born at 23 weeks doubled, prompting new guidance from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine (BAPM) that enables doctors to intervene to save premature babies from 22 weeks gestation. The previous clinical guidance, drafted in 2008, set the standard that babies who were born before 23 weeks gestation should not be resuscitated.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson, said “This heartwarming story goes to show the amount of care that dedicated medical professionals such as the Derases put into caring for these premature babies. Unfortunately, some babies are not given the chance to receive the love and support they need to thrive. Hopefully, more medical professionals will speak out against the contradiction of providing care to some premature babies born before the current abortion limit, while other babies of the same age in their mother’s womb could still be aborted.”

Categories: Premature babies