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Premature Babies: Are They Destined To Have Problems or Can We Make a Difference with Stimulation and Opportunity?

One father updates us about the challenges that he and his wife faced when their son was born 14 weeks before his due date. Now Koa finally comes home!  

Koa 8 weeks after coming home
One day at a time. We did this 122 times as this is how many days it took for Koa to finally come home to us from the NICU.

On the morning of the 12th November, we called the hospital at 5:55 am in the morning (as 6:00 am was the time they would decide he was all clear to come home subject to his sleep apnea). We were like kids the night before Christmas. We couldn’t sleep knowing that tomorrow could be the day Koa is coming home.

Koa needed to go 7 days straight without stopping breathing once to be able to come home. The month or two prior he would go up to 6 days without stopping and then would stop for a micro second, but that “stop” would reset the count back to day 1. This was absolutely frustrating but we had faith in the universe that when Koa was ready, he would do the 7 days.

That first moment when they saw each other was magical

He was finally ready to come home. Skyy (his older brother) was just as excited as we were. As Skyy wasn’t permitted in the NICU, it was his first time to even see his little brother Koa in person. That first moment when they saw each other was magical. The uncontainable excitement, Skyy ran from the sofa we were waiting on to his mum who was walking down the hall carrying Koa. The love Skyy has for his brother who he had just met for the first time. It was instantaneous. He was checking all his fingers, all his toes, his ears, his eyes. It was like he was checking that everything was there. This brotherly bond that would be with them forever. This was a very special moment. It was a privilege and so beautiful to stand back and witness.

Skyy and Koa meet for the first time.
Our first week or so was filled with sleepless nights. It wasn’t from Koa crying, Koa slept like a baby, it was us that were constantly watching him and not sleeping. We were constantly checking on him, making sure he was still breathing, watching for any slight movement in his chest or back. Just the slightest twitch or movement in his nostrils, eyes, mouth or cheeks all so we could relax for another few minutes where one of us would check again. It was terrifying… but he was fine. Never stopped once.

Now the real work would begin. We had made a plan and while he was in the NICU, we had started preparing all the bits we wanted to show him. We also had the crawling track ready to go.

Koa loves Bits of Intelligence

His eyes watch us intensely; he searches for things and finds new things in the house every day.
My wife went straight to work with him. The bits were in Japanese and English – why  wouldn’t you start teaching a second language immediately? She started doing the crawling track 10 times a day. She was very consistent. A natural mother. A natural teacher. Doing everything she knew, everything she had learned, all to give Koa the best possible start. He was already very used to our voices. He loves listening to us speak. When we speak, he actually started to really watch our mouths move from a few weeks ago and he tries to copy the movement of our mouths and he talks a lot. Yes, TALKS. (some people call it making lots of baby sounds). The early morning is my favorite time of day, when it’s “Dada time” and we get to have a great conversation about what he dreamt about and what we should do today. It also gives mum a chance to get a little more sleep.

His eyes watch us intensely, basically saying, “what are you going to teach me next?” He searches for things. He finds new things in the house every day. We carry him around the house and show him paintings on the walls and little statues. I suppose it’s like showing 3D bits. We talk about them to him and he looks for these things now when we say “Koa, where’s the __________?” His eyesight is brilliant. He will look at my wife and smile at her from about 3 meters away. This week my wife noticed him moving his head in the direction she was walking and he was smiling at her all the way – right until she came up close and said, “Are you watching me? Can you see me all the way over there?” This is all thanks to the black and white bits, the detailed Bits and also now the Bits of Intelligence.

Koa learning Bits of Intelligence

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Brotherly love
“One day at time” we are still living by it but now, it is more, enjoying one day at a time.

Thought for Food

There are few things in life dearer to us than the food we eat. Few, if any of us have ever experienced starvation or been forced to live for long periods with little or no food. Instead we have been born into a world where food is plentiful.

Vegetables are easy to prepare and very nutritious

Our supermarkets provide a variety of food that is simply astonishing to those who come from countries where there are no such markets. I was reminded of this once when I was talking to one of our mothers from Poland. When we began to talk about fresh vegetables, mother’s face grew long. When I asked what was available at that time in Poland, she said there were only two fresh vegetables that they could get regularly: carrots and onions. There was no hope of any green leafy vegetables. There were no frozen vegetables, which left only canned produce. I asked her whether she had visited a supermarket during her stay in Philadelphia, and she began to tell me about a recent trip she and her family had made to one. It was rather like hearing someone describe Disney World. The image of pounds and pounds of fresh strawberries still haunted her.

The King of all Fruit: strawberries in Japan are delicious but expensive.

We Americans must surely be the luckiest people on earth when it comes to food. The United States can grow just about anything and deliver it just about anywhere.

We should be the healthiest people in the world.

The sad fact is we are not.

We are not only the fattest nation on earth, but we are arguably the least healthy nation in the industrialized world.
One of our problems is that we have long since discarded the notion of food as fuel. Instead we think of food as a form of entertainment. We often use food to celebrate a special event or as a reward when we have done something particularly well. We use food to comfort ourselves when something goes wrong.

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