Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Never Let Go, Part 1: Lost and found

About this story

All of my recollections in this story have been verified with the people involved, with photos and video taken at the time, and with medical records. I also relied on my own journal entries and notes taken by my husband, Thomas French, a journalist and author.

To supplement my understanding of extreme prematurity, I interviewed doctors, bioethicists and epidemiologists, talked to other parents of micropreemies, and read dozens of journal articles and books. Dr. John Lantos, director of the Children's Mercy Bioethics Center in Kansas City, helped shape many of the ideas in this series. His book Neonatal Bioethics: The Moral Challenges of Medical Innovation was an invaluable resource.

Scenes for which I was not present, such as Gwen Newton's resuscitation of our baby, were described to me by the people who were there, and verified by medical records.

The statistic in the top of the story about the number of babies born at the edge of viability comes from the National Center for Health Statistics' U.S. birth certificate data from 2006, supplied by Harvard epidemiologist Tyler J. VanderWeele. The statistics cited by Dr. Aaron Germain are from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Research Network. The statistics pertinent to my baby account for the advantages of being female and not a twin, and for the fact that I received antenatal corticosteroids to strengthen her lungs. The statistics are specific to infants treated with mechanical ventilation. Odds for all babies born at 23 weeks would be bleaker. Survival data reflects babies who survived to age 18 to 22 months.

The claim that prematurity is the leading killer of newborns comes from the March of Dimes. Complications from prematurity, which include low birth weight and respiratory distress syndrome, are several of the top 10 causes of death in the first year of life. Together, they are responsible for more deaths than the No. 1 cause, birth defects. Prematurity is also the leading cause of developmental delays.

The following journal articles were essential to Part One of this story, particularly the discussion of the gray zone of viability, how doctors decide when to intervene, and outcomes for extremely preterm infants:

• Singh et al. "Resuscitation in the gray zone of viability: determining physician preferences and predicting infant outcomes." Pediatrics, 2007.

• Seri and Evans. "Limits of viability: definition of the gray zone." Journal of Perinatology, 2008.

• Stoll et al. "Neonatal outcomes of extremely preterm infants from the NICHD Neonatal Research Network." Pediatrics, 2010.

• Tyson et al. for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Research Network. "Intensive Care for Extreme Prematurity — Moving Beyond Gestational Age." New England Journal of Medicine, 2008.

All of the scientific and medical passages in this story were fact-checked by neonatologists.

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report. Times photographer Cherie Diez was at the hospital on the day our baby was born as a friend of the family. Many of the photos you see are from those early days. Only much later did she and I return to the hospital as journalists.

About this story 12/06/12 [Last modified: Friday, December 7, 2012 7:39am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series


    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena


    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack


    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath


    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.