Kyndall Covington is the smallest baby ever born at UK. Her amazing story has been in the news and all over social media. She is a gorgeous healthy girl about to experience her first Christmas and do it at home with her family. She’s a true miracle and quite the little fighter! EBF wants to tell you another important story inside of her truly amazing story though. We want to share the story of HER FAMILY fighting alongside her, giving their all to make sure she felt their love even as their own hearts broke over and over. Read below as her mother, Tabitha, shares the story of the Covington family’s NICU journey!
My husband and I blended our families. He had two children and I had two children. We decided we needed an ours to add to yours and mine. Bobby, my husband was afraid to have another child because he had two boys and was worried we would have a girl. We prayed for a sweet baby and it was so easy getting pregnant. The first month off birth control we conceived our precious child. The pregnancy was easy as well, no morning sickness, I felt great.
I’m a labor and delivery nurse so I was very impatient to learn the sex. The doctor got me in early to reveal we were having a sweet little girl! Bobby was right. Little did we know; the girl part wouldn’t be half the terror.
At 18 weeks we had a blood test done, the Alpha Fetal Protein test. It tests for down syndrome and open spina bifida. My test results came back extremely high for the latter. This test often gives false positive, so I was assured by the doctor who called me with the results. She had a false positive with her daughter. It just required extra level 2 ultrasounds. They scheduled me for a level 2 ultrasound with the high-risk doctor. We had to wait two weeks for this appointment. The suspense built.
My husband assured me, along with everyone else, that our baby was going to be just fine. The day finally came for the high-risk ultrasound. Bobby went with me, both of us full of nerves. The ultrasound revealed that she didn’t have spina bifida and was measuring small, a week and a half behind. The high-risk doctor questioned my dates, but the dating ultrasound was only off by a couple of days. With these extremely high test results and her measuring small, the doctor was very concerned. My risk for preeclampsia and intrauterine growth restriction were very much increased. They would be monitoring me and sweet girl closely the remainder of the pregnancy.
Throughout my pregnancy I had dreams of delivering my baby. Every dream revealed a baby in the NICU. I never sensed any danger though. I always felt she was going to be just fine. My last dream was around 24 weeks pregnant. I dreamed I went for my ultrasound without my husband and received bad news. She hadn’t grown at all and things weren’t looking good. At 24.1 weeks my swelling in my legs increased greatly and my blood pressure was slightly elevated. I called my doctor the next morning and he felt like I needed to get into the office that day for an ultrasound. He was hoping with blood pressure medicine I could get ten more weeks along.
My blood pressure was even higher in the office. I was at work that day and my husband was at work as well and couldn’tbe there. The ultrasound showed she was measuring less than the fifth percentile. There also wasn’t any blood flow from my placenta to her. They diagnosed Absent End Diastolic Flow and were even seeing some reversed beats of blood flow. The high-risk doctor declared this an emergency and I needed to get to UK immediately to be admitted. Hopefully with medication to get my blood pressure under control, they could restore some blood flow.
I called my husband hysterically crying. He was an hour and thirty minutes away. He beat me to UK, he made the drive in 40 minutes. Things went fast once I got there. Her heart rate was dropping quite frequently. Being a labor and delivery nurse, I was afraid they were going to crash me to the OR. Things settled down, but according to doctors we would be delivering sooner rather than later. I felt like my world was crumbling.
NICU doctors came in to discuss the plan of care for when our baby delivered. They informed us they wouldn’t want to do chest compressions on her tiny body, but they would if we wanted them too. They began telling us all the things we were up against delivering a baby this premature and this small. I felt like someone was stealing all the air from the room. When they left, my husband and I had to have the most candid conversation of our marriage, of our lives. We decided we wouldn’t have the doctors do chest compressions, we wouldn’t want to put her through that. As much as it hurt, we were fully prepared to let her go. That night we gave it to God. There was nothing more we could do. The control wasn’t in our hands. “For this child we prayed.”
The next day the ultrasound showed the blood flow was worse. The doctors decided to deliver her emergently via c-section. Kyndall Ellis Covington was born on 4/5/18 at 12:36 pm weighing only a mere 360 grams, 12 ounces. I remember laying in the OR, typically a happy time, you are anxiously awaiting to hear your baby cry for the first time. There was no cry, it was extremely quiet. There was nothing to celebrate. Our baby’s life hung in the balance. I remember thinking she didn’t make it.
When in recovery is when I met Dr. Patra for the first time. This is the woman I credit for saving Kyndall’s life. Her face was grim, she didn’t fill us with any false hope. She laid it on the line. Her odds of survival weren’t good. We would have to take it day by day, and many times we would need to take it moment by moment. The equipment was too small for her frail little body. The breathing tube was the smallest they make, and never use. The vent that she needed didn’t fit her breathing tube and the tube they were unable to suction. UK figured out how to adapt those things. I owe them my life for saving hers.
I didn’t want to announce her birth. I wasn’t ready for people to ask questions. We may lose her, and I didn’t want to have to later announce her death. People began finding out anyway and the texts and calls began flooding in. What can we do is the biggest question I got. My response was always, just pray. That tiny little body would need all the prayers she could get. Modern medicine could only do so much.
It was many hours before I was able to go meet her. My husband had been up there several times to see her. He took me up in a wheelchair, and in that moment and every moment leading up to that and every moment to follow, he became my rock. The nurse tells you to touch your baby for the first time and it’s the most terrifying thing you have ever done. You feel like your soft touch may break her. Every touch thereafter my baby would show me she knew me. Her heart rate would settle down, her oxygen saturation would increase. In her way she was saying, “I know you, you are my mom.”
When you are told your child may not survive you are scared to fall in love too deeply. Everyday that passed and every obstacle Kyndall overcame, the nurses and doctors teach you it’s ok to love her, and in fact, she needed mine and my husband’s love more than we knew. Studies show that premature babies with involved parents have better outcomes. When we were told this, mine and my husband’s life changed. We vowed to do everything possible for Kyndall to live her best life.
Being in the NICU, you experience every emotion known to man. Some you are ashamed of feeling and you isolate yourself even more. I was angry. Why would God put my child through this? I was fearful. I couldn’t stomach the thought of losing her. I felt guilty. The woman’s body is designed to carry a child, and my body failed me and Kyndall. The emotions I felt were endless. When people would tell me, “Well at least she is alive.” I wanted to scream. I didn’t need people that had never walked in my shoes, to tell me what to be thankful for. I was envious to see other pregnant woman sporting their big healthy nine-month pregnant bellies around. When I began to read other’s stories, I learned every emotion I was feeling was completely normal.
Through this experience, we learned some things just simply don’t matter anymore, while other things matter more than anyone could every imagine. As parents we take for granted some of the simplest things. Your baby’s cry, holding your baby, dressing your baby, staying up with your baby all night. As a NICU parent you don’t experience these things for a long time. I didn’t hear Kyndall’s cry for the first 9 weeks of her life, I didn’t get to hold my baby until she was six weeks old.
There are times you feel like you aren’t in control. Your child is laying there, and at times you don’t even feel like their parent. I’m here to tell you, you are your child’s biggest advocate. You are their voice. When I felt like this, the doctors and nurses always did an incredible job reassuring me, I was her mother and mothers know best.
NICU life is the worst roller coaster ride you have ever been on. When you are on a high, you are flying high, and the lows are lowest of lows. Having four children at home, and one fighting for her life in a different city, there is nothing that can prepare you for that. Everyone just rolls with the punches. There are times you feel so torn. We were celebrating my child’s fifth birthday, meanwhile Kyndall was having a really bad day. My heart was being ripped down the middle. I couldn’t be there at her bedside, and it was a terrible feeling.
I think the NICU gives you a little bit of PTSD. The entire 169 days of her NICU stay, I would jump when my phone rang. I would slightly hyperventilate if the caller ID said UK NICU. The middle of the night phone calls my heart would stop beating for a few seconds. Our girl, she was a feisty one. Thank God for that because that’s what got her through. Many times, the phone call was to inform us she had yet again pulled out her tube, and they had replaced it with no hiccups.
When your child is living in the NICU, some days you are literally just trying to put one foot in front of the other. Breathe in, breathe out. The doctors would always say take it one day at a time. Sometimes to get myself through, I would just take it one minute at a time. Those long drives to Lexington, many days were spent reflecting and lots of tears. That long walk to parking garage, my heart broke over again and again. Everyday I left a piece of my heart in that NICU.
While doing all of that, something amazing happens. Life goes on. Your baby grows every day. She gets stronger. They reach huge milestones. The nightmare that you think will never end, finally does. The doctor comes in one day and plans for discharge in a few days.
WE ALL SURVIVED. The real MVP though is my sweet Kyndall Ellis. She endured so much. I believe she is destined to do something great in this world, but she already left her mark. The tiniest of souls can make the biggest of impacts. Kyndall Ellis Covington my wish for you, shoot for the stars baby girl. Our sweet miracle, “For this child we prayed.”
Kyndall will be nine months old in a few days. She is still on oxygen, but we are in the process of weening her down. She loves to be talked to and smiles frequently. Her eye doctor cleared us to come back in a year. Her eyes are doing great. She will require a hernia repair surgery in a few months. Other than that we have a healthy happy little girl!
Join us in prayer for Kyndall and the Covington family as they continue to grow and heal from their NICU journey! We are so thankful for the amazing families willing to share the truths of their journey so that other families can read and gain strength from those who have gone before them!