Winlaw resident Nikkei Merrit was making plans for a December baby when her life changed in an instant.
On Aug. 22, at just 24 weeks into her pregnancy, Merrit’s water broke unexpectedly. A few hours later, baby Indra was born at the Kootenay Lake Hospital. Babies that young are not usually delivered in Nelson, but there was too much smoke from the forest fires for flights to get out of the area and not enough time to take an ambulance to Kelowna.
The baby was also presenting breach, which further complicated things.
“They made me quite aware at the time that things could get quite complicated,” said Merrit. “They told us there was a 50 to 60 per cent chance that the baby would survive the birth.
“They let us decide whether we would want to hold her if she was dying.”
Merrit was relieved when Indra moved around and breathed a bit on her own when she was born.
The baby was quickly placed in an incubator and on a ventilator.
“Once they realized she was in stable condition, they called in the Vancouver neo-natal transport team,” explained Merrit.
The team had to fly into Cranbrook, then helicopter over to Nelson, but by the time they got to Nelson, it was too dark to fly Indra back to Cranbrook. Mother and baby then had to go by ambulance to Cranbrook and then fly from Cranbrook to Vancouver.
After a few days, Merrit was released from hospital, but developed a severe fever and had to be readmitted.
She was diagnosed with septic thrombosis — a blood infection possibly caused by an infection in her uterus. During a scan, they also found a large blood clot in her inferior vena cava running from her lower body to her heart.
Because of infection control protocols Merrit wasn’t able to visit the baby or see the rest of her family when they arrived in Vancouver. It wasn’t until Indra was 13 days old that her mom was finally able to hold her.
Indra has a hole in her heart that is currently being treated. A decision will be made in a few days about whether she will need surgery. She is still also dealing with respiratory distress, so will remain on a ventilator until she can tolerate natural oxygen levels.
On the positive side, Indra has been gaining weight. Born at 760 grams (one pound, 10.8 ounces), she has now reached 980 grams.
The family expects Indra to be hospitalized at least until December.
Merrit’s partner David Greaves and the rest of the couple’s children remain in Winlaw.
Friends have set up a GoFundMe “Support for Baby Indra and family” campaign to help the couple with the extra expenses of missed work, travel and additional living expenses in Vancouver.
“We really appreciate it, the money is going to be a huge help,” said Merrit. “It is really amazing, it was totally unexpected.
“We have never been in this position before — where we have had to ask for help. It is spectacular that people are willing to contribute to us.”
Merrit is very thankful for the help of everyone at Kootenay Lake Hospital.
“The Nelson doctors, nurses and my midwives were really amazing,” added Merrit. “They actually gave her a really good chance.”
“They were able to keep her alive long enough for Vancouver to come and get us. That is pretty amazing for such a small hospital like Nelson — it’s very rare they have a baby that young that they can keep alive.”