Ryu’s name means “dragon strength” and “fighter” in Japanese and in his short life, he’s already lived up to his name in a big way. Ryu was born 15 weeks early at the Foothills hospital – weighing only 500 grams, or 1 lb, 1 oz. His mom Randal had been admitted to hospital for high blood pressure and preeclampsia and an ultrasound found her placenta was not giving Ryu enough nutrients. She was monitored in hospital and was told he would have the best chance to thrive if he was born at 25 weeks or later. On Aug 5, right on that 25-week mark, he arrived via emergency C-section, to their relief, with cries. Randal was later told she was a “ticking time bomb” in that she could have had a stroke because her blood pressure was so high, threatening his life, and her own.
For 60 days, Ryu was intubated as his underdeveloped lungs learned how to work. But when NICU teams tried to extubate him, he only lasted six hours. They had to reintubate him, using the smallest breathing tube they had, but it was still not small enough. It was determined he would need the ENT experts at the Alberta Children’s Hospital to be safely extubated. While unnerving to arrive at a new NICU, after getting to know everyone so well at the Foothills, Randal and Juan soon found it was the best place for little Ryu, and for them.
After he was extubated, they settled into the donor-funded Edwards Family NICU where they could enjoy quiet cuddles with their little baby in the comfort of a beautiful private room while Bi-pap and then C-pap machines helped him breathe. Despite feeding through an NG tube, and setbacks including a right lung collapse and blood transfusion, by the time he was 100 days old, he weighed 5.5 lbs. – and growing feistier each day. When Music Therapist Sarah came to visit, he would only stop crying only if she played upbeat rock and roll tunes for him, rather than lullabies. When she played, he was calm, and his eyes turned toward her.
Randal is so grateful for the NICU nurses, who she calls Ryu’s “aunties.” They always felt at ease leaving him in their loving hands for the night. In November, when Ryu was strong enough to be moved to a level 2 NICU at another hospital, Randal was sad to say goodbye to the care team who became like family and to the place that became Ryu’s first real home. After a total of 147 days in hospitals, he finally was able to go home in December on oxygen and is working on his oral feeding but is growing bigger each day.
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