4-month-old baby, born prematurely, beating the odds for survival and health Taneytown councilman, wife to take son home xTC

November 30, 1998|By Kirsten Scharnberg | Kirsten Scharnberg,SUN STAFF

Ian Michael Wieprecht, who weighed just a bit more than a 12-ounce can of soda when he was born prematurely four months ago, is going home from the hospital today. He now weighs just under 4 pounds.

Exactly four months ago yesterday, doctors delivered the grim news to Taneytown City Councilman James A. Wieprecht.

The baby probably won't survive, they said, and your wife might not either.

The joy of the couple's first baby -- a miracle in itself after two years of costly and emotionally taxing fertility treatments -- had turned into a nightmare.

"I was so scared," said Wieprecht, 35. "I can't even tell you."

A risky situation

Lauren Wieprecht, 30, had been admitted to St. Joseph Medical Center on July 27, 26 weeks pregnant and suffering from severe symptoms of preeclampsia, a rare condition that threatens the pregnancy, putting the mother and child at risk.

Two days later, doctors told the couple their only hope was induced labor and an immediate Caesarean section.

The baby had only a 50-50 chance of making it, the doctor told them. And the baby had a 70 percent chance of having severe, long-term health problems.

Before the risky delivery, the couple called their minister. If their baby was dying, they wanted him baptized immediately.

Three months early and just a few weeks beyond the stage where most premature babies do not survive, Ian Michael Wieprecht was born. His head was about the size of an egg. He was not even as long as a sheet of notebook paper.

"To tell you the truth," Lauren Wieprecht said Sunday, on Ian's 4-month birthday, "the first time I saw him, I didn't even notice his size as much as I noticed that he had all the right little parts. He was perfect -- just little."

The mother isn't simply being biased.

Doctors had told the couple that Ian had "a 100 percent" chance of having eye problems because of the extended time he spent on oxygen, but none developed. They predicted severe lung problems, but other than one easily treated infection, none developed. They warned about developmental problems, and, once again, none occurred.

"Somewhere along the line, Ian came up with the idea that he was a full 6 pounds, even when he was weighing in at just 12 ounces," James Wieprecht said. "And none of us thought it wise to correct that belief. We just let him think that and act like that."

Baby is growing well

Yesterday, Ian was up to 3 pounds, 10.6 ounces, more than triple his birth weight. He was eating 30 percent more than when he was born. He has perfected the art of howling for food.

"We don't get many of them this little," said Donna Tragester, the hospital's neonatal intensive care nurse practitioner. "Certainly we don't see many who are this little and with so few complications. He's amazing."

His parents think so. They've always considered Ian a miracle. He was conceived on their eighth try at artificial insemination -- on Valentine's Day.

This morning, Ian is going home to a fancy nursery that's been ready for months.

"It's kind of scary to think of having him all to ourselves," James Wieprecht said, rocking the tiny baby who only seems big to those people who knew him when he was 10 inches long. "But after all this time, we're really ready to have him home."

The nurses, some coming in on their days off to say goodbye, hate to see Ian go. "But we always know they're only on loan to us for a while," Tragester said.

Pub Date: 11/30/98

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