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Monday
Mar101997

Baby who weighed 14 ounces improving

by Ellen Crawford/The Forum

If Hope Levos keeps gaining weight, she could be going home in little more than a week, her doctor says.

She weighed a mere 14 ounces and was nearly 15 weeks premature when she was born the day before Thanksgiving. She's been at Fargo's Dakota Heartland Hospital on South University since was born.

"She's about 3 1/2 pounds now, and I expect her to go home before Easter," Dr. Ravi Agarwal, director of neonatology at Dakota Heartland.

Agarwal wants her to weigh at least 4 pounds 6 ounces before she leaves the hospital.

He estimates she may be ready to head home about March 24 if she continues growing approximately an ounce a day.

"She's doing extremely well," he says.

Hope is Brenda and Tom Levos' first child. The rural Leonard, N.D., couple had been trying to have a baby for about 1 1/2 years when Brenda became pregnant.

The early part of her pregnancy was uneventful, then she got a sharp pain in her abdomen two days before Thanksgiving. Her doctor discovered that her blood pressure was dangerously high and her liver was starting to shut down. She would have to have a cesarean section, the doctor said.

Hope weighed only 1 1/2 ounces more than Trent Petrie, the Dilworth boy who was the smallest know infant to survive premature birth. Trent is 11 now.

Agarwal says Hope doesn't have problems with her sight, bleeding in her head or the major respiratory troubles that blague many premature babies and she is breathing on her own.

Hope's parents take turns spending time with her every day. They've become experts at reading the equipment that's monitoring her heartbeat and other vital signs.

"They are very good parents," Agarwal says.

The Levoses say they'd like to have more children despite the worry that's come with the first one.

"It's got to get better," Tom says.

Saturday
Feb081997

Weighing 14 ounces at birth, Hope now living up to her name

by Ellen Crawford/The Forum

Hope is steadily gaining weight and breathing on her own, signs that parents Tom and Brenda should soon be able to take her home. Colburn Hvidston III/The ForumHope Levos' parents have quite a story to tell her when she gets older.

She was born the day before Thanksgiving, nearly 15 weeks early. She weighed only 14 ounces and wasn't any bigger than the length of the adult hand.

Now, she weighs 3 pounds. Dr. Ravi Agarwal, director of neonatology at Dakota Heartland Hospital in Fargo, hopes to send her home by March 15. He wants her to weigh 4 pounds 6 ounces before she leaves.

Agarwal thinks she has a 60 percent chance of developing normally and only a 25 percent chance of having trouble learning in school. He said he bases his assessment on her amazing progress: She has no problems with her sight, she hasn't had any bleeding in her head, she doesn't have the major respiratory problems that afflict many premature babies, she more than doubled her birth weight in two months and she is breathing on her own.

"The way I look at it, this is God's Miracle," he said. "Her name is appropriate. She's God's hope."

She weighted only 1 1/2 ounces more than Trent Petrie, the Dilworth boy who was the smallest known infant to survive premature birth. Trent is 11 now.

Hope is Brenda and Tom Levos' first child. The rural Leonard, N.D., couple had been trying to have a baby for about 1 1/2 years when Brenda became pregnant.

She said the early part of her pregnancy was uneventful. By the middle of November she'd gone through morning sickness and was starting to feel good. Her pregnancy was just starting to show and she was getting excited about having a baby. Then she discovered her life was in danger.

Brenda, a 26-year-old designer at Flint Communications Inc. in Fargo, was on her lunch break when she got a sharp pain in her upper abdomen. The pain worried her, so she called her mother for advice. Her mother told her to go see her doctor.

Fargo obstetrician-gynecologist Bruce Conmy thought Brenda was a little dehydrated and prescribed two bags of fluid intravenously. Brenda said she was so dehydrated that her veins had shrunk and the nurse couldn't get the needle into her arm. When she started throwing up, Conmy hospitalized her.

That night she had an ultrasound and other tests. She thought she simply was in the hospital for observation. The next morning she found Conmy sitting by her bed when she awoke.

He informed her she would have to have a cesarean section. Thinking that her medical problems weren't serious, she asked when he thought she should have it. He told her he'd scheduled it in 30 minutes.

"I didn't realize how serious the situation was," Brenda said.

Her blood pressure was up and her liver was starting to shut down, she said.

She spent a week in the hospital after Hope was born, then was back soon after she went home because she caught a cold from her husband.

For Tom, also 26, it was a very scary time. He would visit Brenda, then check on Hope in the neonatal intensive care unit. Then he'd report back to Brenda on how Hope was doing.

Now that Brenda is back at work, she and Tom have worked out a schedule for spending time with Hope. Brenda is there two hours at lunch time and Tom goes after work. He has about a half-hour alone with Hope before Brenda joins them at the end of her work day. 

They're only allowed to hold Hope about five minutes per day, so they take turns.

Bad weather has kept them from getting to the hospital a few times. Brenda said that on those days they make a lot of calls to the staff caring for Hope.

"It's hard leaving your baby in the hospital," Brenda said. "But as good as she is, there's no way we could give her the care she gets here."

The couple said they have a good insurance policy that is covering the cost of Hope's care.

While waiting for Hope to grow stronger, her parents have been working hard to turn part of their old farm home into a nursery.

"We really hadn't started," Brenda said. "We thought we had three months to go."

Tom said Hope was on of the names they thought about naming their baby. When se was born, he knew it was the right one.

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