Woodward, Okla. —
Have you ever seen a 4-pound tank?
Rachelle and Steven Rogers have. When their son Kyler, who they nicknamed "Tank," was born 7-weeks early in January 2010.
Kyler and his family are the ambassador family for Woodward's 2013 March of Dimes March for Babies, which will be held this Saturday at 10 a.m. at Cedar Heights Elementary. As part of the March for Babies, teams will walk around the George Goetzinger Memorial Walking Trail.
BIG NAME FOR SMALL BABY
While the tiny baby Kyler, who was born on Jan. 13, 2010 weighing 4-pounds, 7-ounces, was certainly a fighter during his 3-weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at OU Children's Hospital, his nickname came long before he was born.
Rachelle said the nickname started as a joke.
"It started out at a football game. I noticed that a player on the opposing team was named Tank. So I turned to Steven and said, 'there you go honey, if we have a boy we can name him Tank,'" Rachelle said. "It became a joke throughout the whole pregnancy."
The name stuck even after their newborn son had to be rushed to the OU Children's NICU after his premature birth. Steven went down to be with the baby while Rachelle had to remain at Woodward Regional Hospital to recover from her emergency C-section.
"The nurses put cutouts on the wall around his incubator that said Tank," Steven said. "I had 2 days to get that arranged before she (Rachelle) got there."
Now that he's a healthy and rambunctious 3-and-a-half-year-old, Kyler " is really a tank now," according to his father.
"He's a rough and tumble toddler," Steven said.
The family has even used the boy's nickname for their team name when participating in the March for Babies for the past 3 years.
"That's why we call ourselves 'Team Tank,'" Rachelle said.
KYLER'S SURPRISING BIRTH
Looking back, Steven said, "It's funny though to think of a little 4-pound baby named Tank."
But what seems humorous now, was scary 3-and-a-half years ago.
Especially when the Rogers had no idea their son might be born early until the doctor had ordered the emergency C-section.
On Jan. 12, 2013, Rachelle said she was 32 weeks and 5 days into her pregnancy when she noticed some unusual spotting.
She was concerned and called her doctor.
"She told me to go to the Woodward hospital and have an ultrasound just to check things out," Rachelle said. "So I did and I knew something was wrong during the ultrasound."
However, she said the medical officials couldn't really tell her anything until a doctor had reviewed the ultrasound and so they sent her home.
But after the doctor reviewed the ultrasound, she said, "they called me back in and put me on the monitors and said they were going to keep me overnight for observation."
"First off they told us they were just keeping her overnight just as a precaution, so we stayed not thinking anything real serious. We had no idea our son would be born the next day," Steven said.
"It ended up that I had a silent placental abruption," Rachelle said.
A placental abruption is when the placenta, which surrounds and provides nourishment to the baby in the womb, tears away from the uterine wall prior to delivery of the baby. Rachelle said hers was "silent" because she didn't really experience any of the typical symptoms associated with placental abruption.
A placental abruption can be dangerous both to mother and child, which is why doctors had admitted Rachelle to the hospital.
"They did another ultrasound in the morning to see if it tore anymore and it had, so they had to do an emergency C-section," Rachelle said.
Originally, she said doctors said she would have the option being flown to OU Children's Hospital to have the surgery or to go ahead and have it in Woodward and the baby alone would be flown out.
"It was such a scary time for our family, knowing that the Woodward hospital didn't have the resources to deal with a newborn in NICU, but at the same time there were concerns with trying to fly her out," Steven said.
But then it became quickly apparent that she couldn't afford to wait for the helicopter.
"There was not an option to fly at all in the end, because if I would've fully abrupted in flight then they could have lost both me and the baby," Rachelle said.
By that time local physician Dr. Kenan Kirkendall had stepped in and he performed the C-section on the morning of Jan. 13, 2010.
"Dr. Kirkendall then did an umbilical line on Kyler to get him ready for the flight to OU Children's," Rachelle said.
Steven said they didn't realize how important this was until after Kyler had arrived at OU Children's.
"That first night the neonatologist came in and said that they had 88 babies in the NICU and didn't have one who came in that came in with as good of care as Kyler did. And that was because of the umbilical line that Dr. Kirkendall had done," Steven said. "He said he didn't know who Dr. Kirkendall was, but that Woodward was lucky to have a doctor with his capabilities. I thought that was such a huge prop for Woodward Regional Hospital and a real blessing for our family."
SUPPORT HELPED FAMILY THROUGH TOUGH TIME
The first few days and weeks were tough for the Rogers family.
Rachelle said she didn't even get to hold her son until he was almost a week old.
Kyler then spent another 2 weeks or so in the NICU before the family could bring him home to Woodward.
"We brought him home on Feb. 2 or 3, I don't remember which now, but sometime that first week in February," Rachelle said. "I do remember it was a snowstorm when we drove home and that was not fun."
She said it was also not fun having to keep her newborn isolated away from people for several weeks even after bringing him home. Especially as she also had a young daughter Lily Luckett, now 8, whose first time seeing her baby brother was through their home's front window because they couldn't risk the baby being exposed to any germs that Lily might have picked up at school.
"My due date was March 4 and I had him Jan. 13. Then when we brought him home, we could have no visitors until April and no going out in public except to go to the doctor," Rachelle said.
But there was also snippets of good news.
"We're so thankful he didn't have any other serious medical issues other than being premature," Rachelle said. "He didn't have to have any surgeries or things like that."
And although it was a stressful time for the family, the Rogers said they received a lot of support from the community that helped get them through.
"One neat thing is that because he (Kyler) was there at OU Children's and I was here, I went ahead and pumped my milk. And Steven's uncle who owns Beaver Express delivered my breast milk to him down there," Rachelle said. "That way Kyler could have the colostrum from the milk which is such a good thing for newborns."
The couple's church family then held a fundraiser for them as did the Woodward Fire Department, where Steven works.
And throughout it all, Rachelle said she could also feel the support from "just people calling and praying for us."
"It was all very humbling," she said.
BECOMING AMBASSADORS FOR MARCH OF DIMES
The family later learned that the March of Dimes had also been supporting their family from the beginning. They learned how research, supported by the March of Dimes, played a role in helping to see that despite being born early, Kyler could grow up healthy.
"He got the surfactant that helps to develop a baby's lungs, and that's all because of drug research and development by the March of Dimes," Steven said.
When Kyler was about 8-months-old, Rachelle said a friend of hers told her about the March of Dimes March for Babies.
"My friend was on the March committee and she asked if I would like to get involved, so I went to the walk to learn more about it," she said. "By the next year I was on the committee. This is now my third year to be on the committee and our third year to do a fundraising team."
Rachelle said she decided to get involved with the March of Dimes after learning about their dedication to researching the causes of prematurity and how to fix it as well as their research into birth defects.
"I just kind of felt like we could do something to give back because I'm passionate about the mission of the March of Dimes, because if it weren't for that mission, we might not have our healthy, 3-and-a-half-year-old son today," she said.
Both Rachelle and Steven said that they also believe in supporting the March of Dimes so that hopefully one day no other parents have to go through the trials they faced after Kyler's premature birth.
"Just the feeling you have when the doctors come in and tell you there's something wrong and you have a chance you could lose your child, that's one of the worst feelings in the world," Steven said.
"If there's a way for that to be prevented. We don't want anybody else to have to go through that; it's hard," Rachelle said.
Those who would like to learn more about or make a donation to the March of Dimes and it's mission to help all babies be healthy are welcome to attend Woodward's March for Babies this Saturday morning at Cedar Heights.
Or they can visit the organization's website at www.marchofdimes.com. Rachelle said donations may also be mailed to the March of Dimes office in Enid at 610 S. Cleveland No. 110H, Enid, OK 73703.