Legendary Firsts

Baby Legend celebrates even the tiniest milestones in the NICU.

It’s always an exciting time for parents when a baby reaches a major development milestone—their first smile, first steps, first word. For premature or sick newborns in the McLane Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), firsts become even more precious, inspiring hope in worried parents.

Legend Reyna was diagnosed at 19 weeks gestation with gastroschisis, a birth defect that occurs when the baby’s abdominal wall does not form correctly, leaving a hole and allowing the intestines to extend outside the body. The condition can also restrict growth in the womb and may cause issues with digestion, even after surgery to repair the hole.

Knowing he would need advanced care, doctors planned to induce labor three weeks early. But Legend was in a hurry to meet his family and arrived six weeks early in February 2022, weighing just 4 pounds, 6 ounces.

Less than a week after his birth, Legend experienced a different sort of milestone—his first surgery. Surgeons tucked Legend’s intestines back in his abdomen and closed the hole. The next day, his parents held him for the very first time.

“I was excited to finally hold him, but I was also nervous because he was so tiny,” says Legend’s mother, Chelsea. 

Legend's parents, Chelsea and Leo, hold him for the first time, a week after his birth.

Over the next several weeks, Legend’s parents celebrated many joyful firsts—the first time he was able to drink a bottle, the first time they saw his face without tubes and monitor wires, and the first time he wore clothes.

“It’s a little gross, but we were even excited when he had his first dirty diaper, because that meant the surgery was successful and his digestive system was working the way it’s supposed to,” Chelsea says. “I never thought I would be so happy about a stinky diaper!”

Doctors monitored Legend’s digestion for two more weeks while he gained weight and strength in the NICU.

“When I went to see him every day, it sometimes felt like I was babysitting him while the nurses were getting to do all the mothering,” Chelsea says. “But, they really worked to make sure I was a part of it, like slightly delaying his feedings if I would be there soon so that I could do it. The doctors called me every day with an update, even if nothing had changed, and the nurses were so kind to me no matter how many times I called to check on him.”

At five weeks old, Legend graduated from the NICU, and his parents left the hospital with their baby for the first time.

“I’m so grateful to the NICU team and the donors who support them,” Chelsea says. “Now, I get to enjoy all his milestones. In fact, he just rolled over for the first time!”

Learn more about how you can support babies in the NICU

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