SAKT Ambassador


Another Easter Miracle

It was an ordinary Easter weekend for the Holzer’s. Terry, Katie and their three children, Lukas, Morgan and Payton, went to church on Sunday and had Easter dinner with their family. The children talked about the excitement of their new baby sister who was due the end of June.

Katie had a scheduled appointment for Easter Monday. On the hour drive into Bismarck from Linton, Katie grew concerned that the baby wasn’t moving as much as normal. At her checkup Katie’s blood pressure was high and the baby’s heartbeat was irregular. They decided to do an ultrasound, which showed the blood flow to the baby was not sufficient and was backing up. The physicians determined it was better for the baby to be out of the womb.

Katie drove back to Linton that day to gather her things. She and Terry then made their way to Bismarck and checked into CHI St. Alexius Health. “I was scared and terrified,” stated Katie, remembering she did not have anything ready at home for the baby yet. Katie received one dose of steroids the evening before delivery to help prepare the baby’s lungs.

On Tuesday, March 29, 2005, Gracyn came into this world via C-section weighing only one pound 10 ounces. She was born at just over 27 weeks and spent 70 days in CHI St. Alexius Health’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Gracyn was immediately put onto a ventilator and received one dose of surfactant, a medication to help lungs “take on” air. She also had a hole in her heart that eventually closed. Since Katie’s blood pressure was still extremely high she did not get to see Gracyn for a couple of days. Dr. Karen Brown, neonatologist at CHI St. Alexius Health, would go to Katie’s room and give her updates on Gracyn. Katie stated, “The NICU staff is extremely trained; they just have a way about them and were very comforting in our situation.”

Once Katie felt better she was discharged. However, on day three of Gracyn’s life things took a turn for the worse. A brain bleed showed up in her head ultrasound. Throughout the next nine days Gracyn developed hydrocephalus, a condition in which fluid accumulates in the brain that can typically enlarge the head and sometimes cause brain damage. Gracyn’s hydrocephalus was due to the fibrin in her brain’s blood clogging the drainage system and trapping the cerebral spinal fluid. On day 15 of life, the neurosurgeon knew something had to be done and suggested performing a “fontanel tap,” to remove the fluid. Terry and Katie had to decide if they wanted Gracyn to receive the tap. “We were so scared,” stated Katie. “Terry was very worried about long-term health effects, and I remember asking the neurosurgeon if this was his child, would he do it?” He told her he would, so they decided to proceed. Gracyn’s hydrocephaly resolved and she did not need any further intervention.

“I was born at 27 weeks and 2 days. I weighed 1lb 10oz and spent 70 days in CHI St. Alexius Health Bismarck’s NICU. Because of NICU physicians and nurses, I am a healthy energetic, eleven-year-old girl! Please participate in SAKT 2016 by fundraising or making a donation so every NICU infant can grow to be a healthy kid like me.”

Throughout the entire time Gracyn was in the NICU, Terry and Katie were grateful to receive such great care so close to home. “It would have been horrible for the family to be farther away and unable for all of us to be there when we needed to be,” stated Katie. The Holzer’s had a schedule while Gracyn was in the NICU. Katie would drop Lukas and Morgan off at school and she and Payton would drive to Bismarck each day to see Gracyn. Katie said, “The NICU staff treated Payton like royalty. We would get to bring our lunch up to the room and watch television.”

On Saturday’s, the family stayed home and then on Sunday’s, they all came to Bismarck to see Gracyn. Katie felt guilty when she wasn’t at the NICU because of the routine of her other children but she said, “The staff in Bismarck was such a blessing because you know your baby is well taken care of and the nurses treat babies like their own.”

Gracyn received only breast milk while in the NICU. Later, when she tolerated feedings better, it was fortified with supplements to increase calories and nutrients appropriate for a premature baby. Nellie Blotter, CHI St. Alexius Health’s NICU clinical coordinator stated, “It’s really an achievement that Katie was able and willing to produce enough breast milk to cover Gracyn’s feeding needs. It is to Katie’s credit that she was able to provide all the feeding that Gracyn needed.”

Another family milestone was actually getting to hold Gracyn. “There were many weeks we could not hold Gracyn. It was scary holding her for the first time since she was so small,” reflected Katie. After 70 days, Gracyn was discharged to go home. She was on a home cardiac/apnea monitor and home oxygen therapy system for approximately six months. Katie remembered how scary it was having Gracyn on those monitors at home. “Every time I called, the NICU nurse made me feel very comfortable and talked me through everything,” said Katie.

For Gracyn’s first year, Dr. Brown did regular check-ups. After one year there were no signs of any complications and Gracyn weighed more than her sister did when her sister was one year old. Katie said, “Dr. Brown not only treated Gracyn but the whole family. She would let me know when I had to worry if that time came.” Terry said the great NICU staff made things a lot easier. Once a week until Gracyn was three years old, a lady from the Bismarck Early Childhood Education Program came to Linton to the Holzer’s house to monitor Gracyn and make sure she was on track.

Gracyn is now 11 years old and as healthy as any girl her age. This fall she will enter fifth grade and enjoys playing volleyball and reading. Gracyn likes to play with her friends and during the summer, she enjoys swimming and riding her bike. Her sisters and brother still tease her that she was hatched instead of delivered. The Holzer’s are extremely thankful for the staff at CHI St. Alexius Health. “You have to have faith in the people taking care of your baby when you cannot be there. We were lucky to have such a great NICU staff talking care of Gracyn,” stated Katie.