Wise County’s first baby of 2014 didn’t get a big party, bunches of balloons, truckloads of presents or a houseful of happy relatives.
She got a helicopter ride.
Winslow Brooks Ogle was born at 5:14 the afternoon of Jan. 1, a Wednesday, at Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.
It didn’t take long for the medical staff to recognize something was wrong. The newborn, who weighed a healthy 7 pounds, 3 ounces, was pale.
After 20 hours of labor and an emergency C-section, Shelly Ogle got to see and touch her baby for just a few moments before the little girl was whisked away.
“She was an average-size baby, and she was breathing and everything – but she wasn’t the bright red color they like to see,” Shelly’s husband, David, said.
Within 15 minutes, Wise Regional personnel had called the “Teddy Bear Crew” at Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth. A helicopter was on its way to take little Winslow to the neonatal intensive care unit.
It would be April 2 before she got home, after two major surgeries to correct a dizzying array of internal birth defects.
Twice in April, the family was back at Cook Children’s after infections threatened the child’s fragile hold on life, and it’s likely she’ll have more medical procedures as she grows up.
But since April 26, she’s been home with her mom and dad, in rural Wise County northeast of Bridgeport.
It’s finally time to celebrate the first baby of 2014, a chubby-cheeked cherub who is the apple of their eyes.
The Ogles, who only moved to Wise County last August, waited until they were in their early 40s to start a family. David, a big bear of a man who served on nuclear submarines in the Navy, is facilities manager for Amazon in Haslet.
Shelly, by her own description an obsessive multi-tasker, used to work for Cisco Systems.
“I was the geek on the computer, working from home,” she laughs. “I’d put my coffee mug away and put my jacket over my Superman PJs for conference calls.
“Basically, I’m wired a little tight. I was working 10 and 14 hours a day, so I quit to get pregnant. It worked, but it took us a little while.”
Their ages made it a high-risk pregnancy, but batteries of tests revealed no issues. Shelly obsessed about her health, took extra vitamins, drank only distilled bottled water, and she and David did all kinds of research about parenthood. She planned to have a natural childbirth with no medication.
“We were feeling really good, and we got to New Year’s time. We were excited, flying high, ready to be parents,” David said.
Shelly went into labor at around 9 p.m. New Year’s Eve. After that, nothing went the way they had expected.
“The problem (Winslow)had was called transposition of the great arteries,” David said. “Instead of circulating the freshly-oxygenated blood from her lungs to her body, her heart was plumbed backwards. It was pumping good, oxygenated blood back to her lungs, and the non-oxygenated blood was going back to her body.”
He said babies, in the womb, have a valve that allows the blood to mix, since the lungs aren’t in use yet.
“Normally, as soon as they breathe air that valve closes,” David said. “So the helicopter crew gave her a drug that keeps that valve open and allows the continued mixing of the blood in her heart.”
A side effect is that the drug can also make the baby stop breathing – and that’s why Winslow’s dad and uncle, Jonas Scarbrough, beat the helicopter to the hospital.
“That’s what delayed the trip,” David said. “They had to intubate her, put her on a respirator.”
When David and Jonas got to the Fort Worth hospital they called Shelly, back in Decatur. While they were on the phone, she heard the helicopter taking off.
“I started crying because I knew that was my baby going to Cook’s,” she said.
Winslow had open-heart surgery five days later – but the heart defect was not the only problem. A month later she had another operation, called the Kasai procedure, to repair a liver condition known as biliary artresia.
During that surgery, doctors also re-routed several major blood vessels and corrected the placement of her stomach and intestines – a condition called heterotaxy syndrome. Her gallbladder and appendix were removed, and a “G-button” feeding tube was installed.
She also suffers from asplenia, which may be an indication of SCIDS – Severe Combined Immunodeficiency. Doctors won’t be able to make that diagnosis for several more months, but if it’s confirmed she may have to live as a “bubble-baby” in an ultra-clean environment for a time.
It’s probably a blessing that the Ogles didn’t learn all of this right away.
“The heart surgery went really well and she was recovering really well, but we were on pins and needles wondering what other problems she might have,” David said. “The hospital was very kid-gloves with us. They weren’t telling us everything.”
Shelly said they wanted to attack one hurdle at a time.
“It can blow a parent’s mind if they overwhelm them with the possibilities,” she said.
Dr. Vincent Tam at Cook Children’s is one of the world’s foremost pediatric cardiovascular surgeons, and Dr. James Miller, chief of surgery at Cook’s, has probably done more Kasai procedures than anyone in the world, David said.
The Ogles are still in awe at the artistry of the surgeons who work with such tiny infants, the caring and competence of the staffs at Cook Children’s and Wise Regional, and the caring of neighbors – many of whom they don’t even know – who prayed for their baby.
Despite continuing issues, there is much hope for Winslow’s future.
“They say she could potentially play collegiate sports,” her dad said. “Her heart should be fine.”
And while doctors said it would likely be three to four months before her bilirubin numbers – an indicator of the liver’s health – returned to normal, it was actually less than two weeks.
“Dr. Miller said he’d never seen that in his career, a baby doing as well she is that had the Kasai procedure,” David said. “The statistics are that 93 percent of children who have this procedure eventually need a liver transplant – but there are 7 percent that don’t.”
Infections sent them back to the ER in April, but since coming home April 26, the baby has done well – and her parents have calmed down considerably.
“We were terrified when we came home,” Shelly said. “I’m a little OCD when it comes to cleanliness, but now that I have this baby I’m like, ‘My house isn’t clean enough! She’s going to get sick!'”
Nervousness and sleep-deprivation are a way of life for first-time parents. But the Ogles had a little more to deal with than bottles and diapers.
“I know every mother goes through it – I’m not trying to single myself out – but I don’t think people understand how much you have to do,” Shelly said. “I did not think I was going to be able to stay on top of it. There’s so much …
“I tell you what, though – a couple of weeks into it and you’ve got it down.”
Winslow had to learn how to breastfeed and get weaned off morphine, which she was given for all the surgeries. It was a big deal when she began to do normal-baby business in diapers.
“I was dancing with joy when I saw beautiful poop,” Shelly laughed. “It was gorgeous.”
STORIES FROM THE STORM
Much like survivors of a war, the stories David and Shelly hang onto are the funny moments during those first few, stressful months.
“We went through all this, and finally we’re stable, we’re going to go home soon, so I bought her a massage – a nice, two-hour massage,” David said. “She wouldn’t even go eat in a restaurant. She lived at the hospital.
“So I finally convinced her, and she goes there, and the massage therapist wouldn’t do a massage because she’s had a C-section. He said he wanted a letter from the doctor.”
Shelly picks up the story.
“I just started crying right there,” she laughs. “They didn’t know what to do with me. I melted down, right there in the waiting room, crying, ‘I didn’t even want to come here! I left my baby for this!'”
Another excursion, for dinner, turned out better.
David had talked Shelly into leaving the hospital for dinner and picked out an Italian restaurant.
“I used this application called Urban Spoon,” David said. “I was looking for a wine and pizza place, so I plug that in and guess what comes up to the top of the list? Winslow’s Wine Cafe.”
The choice was obvious.
Their Winslow is named after a small town in Ark. where David’s mother was born, one of 23 siblings. At dinner, they met the owner of the restaurant and learned that he named the place after his dog.
“But the reason his dog is named Winslow is that he’s from Winslow, Arkansas,” David said. “This town has like 400 people in it. He knows all kinds of people in my family.”
But the most arresting moment came when they were about to take their baby home. They were taking a class at Cook Children’s, along with several other couples, on how to properly use a car seat.
As David and Shelly walked in, a young lady in front of them kept looking their way. Finally they spoke and quickly figured out how they new each other.
Cortni Campbell, an R.N. at Wise Regional, was pregnant when she was Shelly’s labor-and-delivery nurse. Unbeknownst to Shelly, she had traded shifts with another nurse so she could stay with her through the C-section.
She had since had her baby, who was born prematurely and also had to be hospitalized at Cook Children’s. They were both about to take their little ones home.
Shelly immediately asked Cortni to help her find the nurse who spotted Winslow’s problem and made the call for further tests.
“‘That was me,’ she said. ‘I switched shifts.’ So I got to hug her neck and thank her personally,” Shelly said. “I just thought that was amazing.”
EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER
The range of emotions during those first few months was huge, but it has since settled down a great deal.
“I’m sure there’s still some things in the future that we’ll be going through with little Winslow – but I keep telling everybody, there’s always someone better and worse off,” Shelly said. “Even what she’s been through, after spending just a month at Cook Children’s, you realize there’s worse.”
As far as they know, everything that was wrong with Winslow was internal. Her limbs are fully formed and functional and her mental development does not seem to be impaired in the least. She’s alert, developmentally sharp and has a healthy appetite.
“I tell people we won the baby lottery,” Shelly said.
David said everything wrong with Winslow was something that could be fixed.
“It’s amazing,” he noted. “She’s like one in a billion chance that a child would have these multiple issues, and genetically, there’s nothing wrong. It’s just like lightning striking.”
The Ogles are bright people, and it’s obvious they’ve had a crash-course in pediatric medicine over the past five months.
“You kind of need to know why at first, and then after awhile you kind of don’t need to know why anymore,” Shelly said. “You realize it doesn’t really matter. It wouldn’t have changed anything. You wouldn’t have done anything different.”
David said the pressure and responsibility of his job, even dealing with hundreds of millions of dollars, does not compare to fatherhood.
“It’s indescribable,” he said, then fell silent, looking at his daughter.
“I’ve never seen David broken from any situation,” Shelly said. “I’ve always kind of looked up to him as my rock. David is one of the strongest people, mentally, I’ve ever been around. But this guy broke.
“This situation humbles … it really humbles you,” she said. “You are dependent upon other people for the life of your child. There’s nothing you can do. Control is an illusion anyway, but you have nothing.”
But as she talks, her husband looks down at the chubby baby cradled in his arm and appears to have everything.
Little Winslow dozes off, her tiny hand reaching up toward her father’s goatee, and smiles.