Tiny baby got lots of help

April 20, 2000|By MEG H. PARTINGTON

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - As Rachel Riley licks ketchup off a french fry and bounces in and out of a booster seat, it's hard to imagine she spent the first couple of months of her life in an incubator.

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The brown-eyed toddler was born 28 weeks into her mother's pregnancy after an emergency caesarean section at Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pa.

Daphne Riley, a nurse at Keystone Health Center in Chambersburg, Pa., said she was doing everything by the book.

"I drank my eight cups of water (a day)," took folic acid supplements and walked frequently, said Riley, 25, of Scotland, Pa.

But she was swelling so much around week 26 that her wedding band had to be cut off so it wouldn't hinder her circulation.


That's when husband, Steven Riley, 28, suggested she visit her doctor.

Her blood pressure was high, she had high levels of protein and sugar in her urine and her liver was enlarged.

After four days of resting in bed, her physician decided she should go to Hershey. She delivered Rachel June 6, 1998, three months before her Labor Day due date.

Rachel weighed 1 pound, 13 ounces, and was 13 3/4 inches long.

What caused Riley's medical problems still puzzles her doctors.

They told her there was not enough research to determine what happened.

Rachel was in an incubator for two months. She was on a respirator and was given something to help her breathe.

That something was a substance developed through research funded by the March of Dimes.

Many premature babies with low birth weights lack the substance known as a surfactant and can't get enough oxygen into their blood or enough carbon dioxide out of it, according to the March of Dimes Web site.

In 1985, the March of Dimes funded research that led to the development of artificial or purified animal surfactant, which is given through a tube in the windpipe, goes to the lungs and helps infants breathe easier.

"With a lot of prayers and support, she came through it," Riley said of her daughter, now 22 months old.

Rachel was in Chambersburg Hospital for one month after her stay at Hershey Medical Center. When she finally came home in August 1998, she weighed 4 1/2 pounds.

Now Rachel likes to watch the Disney channel and feed grass to the cows on her parents' farm. She also likes to let their Rottweiler, Chelsea, outside every day.

Riley is grateful for the March of Dimes' role in establishing neonatal intensive care units and surfactant treatments.

"With what they've developed, it's been a big help," she said.

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