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Bringing home a little Hope

Brenda Levos hold her daughter Hope, born 15 weeks premature and weighing only 14 ounces at the time. Hope went home from Dakota Heartland Hospital Thursday.Parents, schooled in raising tiny infant, bring child home for the first time.

by Ellen Crawford/The Forum

Hope Levos went home to Leonard, N.D., Thursday afternoon, the first time she's been out of the hospital since she was born four months ago.

She was born the day before Thanksgiving, nearly 15 weeks early. She weighed 14 ounces, only 2 ounces more than the smallet known infant to survive premature birth. Hope wasn't any larger than the length of her doctor's hand.

Now she weighs 4 pounds 8 ounces and has a very good chance of developing normally, according to Dr. Mahesh Patel, assistant director of neonatology at Fargo's Dakota Heartland Health System.

Hope's parents, Brenda and Tom Levos, are excited to have her home and they're not overly nervous about taking care of her without the hospital staff around them.

"It shouldn't be too bad," Tom said.

Brenda said they've been helping care for Hope since she was born, so they know what they need to do. Hope's parents visited her every day, held her, fed her and learned how to read the equipment monitoring her breathing and heartbeat.

If they do need help, Brenda said they've got plenty of eager volunteers — parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and even some great-aunts and great-uncles.

Brenda and Tom spent Wednesday night with Hope in the intensive care nursery's parenting room to prepare them for being parents full time. Hope slept from 1 to 6 a.m., which Brenda thinks is an encouraging sign.

"It's kind of nice to be able to take a baby home that partially sleeps through the night." she said.

Hope went home with an oxygen machine and equipment to monitor her oxygen levels and heart rate. Patel said she still requires a very small amount of oxygen and probably will continue to need it for one to three months.

He estimates she'll need to have her heart rate monitored for three to four months. Premature babies run a slightly higher risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome, he said.

Brenda said she and Tom are so used to Hhope's size that other babies look huge to them.

"You lose your perspective," she siad.

They've found a shop in West Fargo that carries clothes for premature babies.

"We now get the bulk discount," Brenda joked.

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