‘The ultimate miracle’: Baby born at just 13 ounces comes home after 378 days at hospital (2024)

By Melissa Brunner and Jordan Gartner

Published: Jun. 7, 2024 at 4:03 PM EDT

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW/Gray News) - All babies’ homecomings are joyous, but the experience for the Cusick family was a long time coming with their newborn baby Hazel Rose.

“Every time I look at her, I’m like, ‘I can’t believe you’re here!’” first-time mom Nikki Cusick said.

Nikki and Cory Cusick’s daughter was born at 24 weeks, weighing just 13 ounces.

Nikki Cusick said the pregnancy was fairly normal until about 23 weeks when her blood pressure soared.

She was hospitalized with pre-eclampsia.

“My OBGN, Dr. Blake, kept saying, ‘If you can hold on one more day, you’ll give her a better shot.’ And we held on for eight days,” Nikki Cusick said.

Hazel’s heart rate dropped, and doctors performed an emergency C-section.

For Nikki and Cory Cusick, the hope was they’d be able to hold their little girl, if only for a minute.

“The nurse standing behind me taps me on the shoulder and says, ‘Now, she probably won’t cry because she’s too early and too small.’ The second the doctor got her out and had her in his hands and she let out a tiny cry that made everyone go silent,” Nikki Cusick said. “At that moment I knew two things: One, she was going to make it, and two, we were in trouble because she was an opinionated little girl!”

Day one of Hazel’s life was May 9, 2023.

“They were preparing us that, she’s here but we don’t know how long she’s going to be here,” Nikki Cusick said. “It was minute by minute, day by day with her for a very long time.”

Dr. Josel Doyle added, “Realistically, it is very hard for babies like that to survive.”

But Hazel had her own reality.

“Hazel is a fighter. Through all of her complications she’s always been a fighter,” Doyle said.

On day 32, Nikki and Cory Cusick held Hazel for the first time. But the next morning, her medical team said she had stopped breathing.

“They were doing compressions on her,” Nikki Cusick said. “Her stomach had started to extend, and we didn’t know why.”

Hazel had a blockage in her intestines and needed surgery to be performed at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City.

“I can’t thank Stormont [Vail health] enough for being on top of it because if they had waited, she wouldn’t be here,” Nikki Cusick said.

Doyle added, “If we did not have this partnership with Children’s, being able to get Hazel out in such a timely manner, the outcome could have been a lot worse.”

Hazel would undergo seven surgeries over the next few months.

“They kept telling us, ‘This challenge is going to come up and we don’t think she’s going to make it,’ and every time she was like, ‘No, I’m here and I’m going to stay,’” Nikki Cusick said. “It was so up and down from day to day, and it highlighted the need to take everything one step at a time and enjoy the good moments, so you don’t highlight the bad moments.”

Hazel’s firsts were marked in the hospital: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween, Christmas, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl win, their first walk outside, her first birthday, even a second Mother’s Day.

Then, on day 378. Finally, Hazel was able to head home from the hospital.

“Being in the same house together and being a whole family for the first time in a year was a relief is the only way I can describe it,” Cory Cusick said.

Their new normal includes a lot of monitors and equipment overtaking their living room. Hazel uses a trach, oxygen and a feeding tube. The family also has home nursing care.

The couple says they can’t express their gratitude enough for every doctor, nurse, friend and stranger who helped them through the difficult times.

“It definitely highlighted the importance of having a good core of people around you, a good community and a good partner,” Cory Cusick said.

As for the future, doctors say Hazel’s lungs and organs, incredibly, all look normal. By her second birthday, she could be off the oxygen and able to eat normally. All she needs is time to catch up.

“She is the ultimate miracle baby,” Doyle said. “She is what we call a true survivor, and to me, it’s always being reminded that what is impossible with man is always possible with God. She literally defied all the odds.”

Nikki and Cory Cusick have no doubt their small but fierce fighter will continue to beat the odds and inspire everyone around her.

“She was a fighter from the beginning. There have been so many days when I just thought I didn’t want to get out of bed because this was so overwhelming, but I knew I had to because she’s doing it, and if she’s doing it, why can’t I do it,” Nikki Cusick said. “It just puts life into perspective. If this little baby is going to fight so hard to be here, then we’re going to fight just as hard for her. That’s what I’ve learned from her, is just to never give up.”

Hazel now weighs 18 pounds and will start therapy in a few weeks to help her build strength to start sitting up and standing, and eventually walking and running.

Copyright 2024 WIBW via Gray Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

‘The ultimate miracle’: Baby born at just 13 ounces comes home after 378 days at hospital (2024)


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