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'God's miracle' shining

Born premature at 14 ounces, Hope Levos exudes the energy of any little 3-year-old as her parents, Brenda, left and Tom, and her 2-year-old sister, Megan, look on at their Leonard home. Born 14 ounces, Leonard girl full of zest at age 3

by Cole Short/The Forum

LEONARD, N.D. — Hope flashes a wide grin and bounds across her family's living room in hot pursuit of a red balloon.

The bright-eyed, bubbly girl twists, giggles and gives up chasing the elusive balloon. She'd rather catapult herself off the livingroom couch.

"Hope, be caaaaaareful," her mother, Brenda chides.

Hope ignores the warning and continues to jump and flop across the cushy sofa.

Brenda and her husband, Tom, aren't mad. Actually, they're thankful.

The couple says it's hard to believe their bustling, growing daughter was once smaller than her doctor's hand.

Hope weighed 14 ounces when she was bon on Thanksgiving eve 1996.

The tiny infant, dubbed "God's miracle" by her doctor, was born nearly 15 weeks premature and was so small she could wear Tom's wedding ring as a bracelet.

The rural Leonard girl will celebrate her fourth birthday Monday and shows few visible signs of her incredible birth or slow road to recovery.

"She's gone beyond all of our expectations," Tom says. "She's doing everything a normal little kid does."

In the fall 1996, Brenda was diagnosed with HELLP (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count) syndrome.

The unique form of pre-eclampsia, a toxic condition developing in late pregnancy, caused Brenda's blood pressure to spike and liver and kidneys to fail. It forced doctors to deliver her baby Hope nearly 15 weeks premature.

Brenda Levos holds her daughter Hope wile the toddler takes a break from her playtime activities. Colburn Hvidston III/The ForumAt 14 ounces, Hope weighed 1 1/2 ounces more than the smallest known infant to survive premature birth.

Hope endured repeated surgeries her first year. She breathed with the help of an oxygen machines and was taking 13 different medications when she went home the following March.

"It was an extremely difficult time," Brenda says. "It isn't easy to see your child go through that. I had to sign paper after paper saying 'Yeah, you can do that to her.'"

By her first birthday, Hope weighed 14 pounds and had undergone three surgeries for lung-related problems.

At age 2, she had grown to nearly 20 pounds and was breathing without an oxygen mask. By then, the lone sign of her lingering health problems was a tracheostomy, a tube in her neck helping her breathe.

Today, Hope weighs 30 pounds, below her ideal weight, but making steady progress, Brenda says.

"She's growing like crazy, but she's not as big as she should be for her age," she says.

Tom and Brenda once rented a Fargo apartment to be close to Hope's doctors and therapists.

But as Hope's weight increased the number of regular visits from the family's Leonard farmstead to MeritCare Hospital in Fargo dwindled.

"We only went once this summer, other than for regular checkups or flu shots," Brenda says.

 Hope still shows minor scars on her chest and under one arm from the seven surgeries she had as a toddler. She stands nearly 3 feet tall, roughly the same size as her 2-year-old sister, Megan.

"People think they're twins because they're the same size," Brenda says.

Hope's speech patterns are a little delayed, her mother says, partially because of the tracheostomy that limited her ability to speak.

"That slowed her down a bit," Brenda says. "But she's within a year of what she should be."

Hope attends preschool classes at Central Cass Public Schools in Casselton and should be able to start on time with her kindergarten class in two years, Tom says.

He calls Hope's first two years "a blur," one the family is glad to be past.

"I feel great that it's all behind us now," Brenda says. "Hope looks like any other child. From looking at her, you wouldn't ever guess there had been any problems with her."

References (2)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Source
    Born 14 ounces, Leonard girl full of zest at age 3
  • Response
    Response: Mano Swartz
    'God's miracle' shining - Our Hope - Having a Little Hope - sharing the story of our 24 week preemie, Hope who was born at 15. 6 ounces.

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