LYNN — A Lynn teacher and her husband spent their first holiday at home with their 10-month-old son this Thanksgiving, but it didn’t come without a fight.
Lianne McInerney, a teacher at the Washington Elementary School, and her husband Dave brought their son Stephen home from Franciscan Children’s Hospital in Brighton, where the infant has been battling for his life since birth.
Lianne and Dave could not hold their son for the first six weeks of his life. Now he’s home.
“It was the best experience in the world,” Lianne said. “Living without having your kid with you is hard. The three of us are being a family for the first time, in the real sense of not sitting by the bedside and eating take-out and fast food. We’ll be sitting, having a meal together. Once we got to the point where we knew he was coming home, I needed him home for the holidays and he did it.
“I’m not saying it was ever easy but you do it because it’s your kid,” she said. “If he wasn’t going to give up the fight, neither were we. He defied the odds.”
The McInerney’s called off all large holiday gatherings to spend the holiday as a family of three at their home for the first time. Stephen was born in January, during the 25th week of Lianne’s pregnancy. Weighing just 13 ounces at birth and suffering from a brain bleed, the couple was told he had a 50-50 chance at survival. There were many times Stephen’s parents were called into the hospital because they thought he wouldn’t survive.
“I couldn’t even process it. It didn’t seem real,” Lianne said. “I was barely halfway through my pregnancy. My husband and I were certainly scared out of our minds. We didn’t expect for him to be so small.”
He was rushed to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where he spent the next four-and-a-half-months. He was intubated for seven weeks.
When Lianne finally held Stephen for the first time, he weighed about two pounds and was battling pneumonia and sepsis.
“They put me on a stretcher so I would lay flat,” she said. “He was on a high frequency ventilator and the cords had to be stiff. I held him for three hours and it was the best three hours of my life.”
Two weeks later, he was switched over to a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, and his parents were able to hold him every day. When they learned it wouldn’t be possible for him to come off of the CPAP, they made the difficult decision for him to go to Boston Children’s Hospital to have a tracheostomy, a surgical procedure in which an incision is made in the neck that opens a direct airway through the trachea.
He remained at Boston Children’s Hospital for about five weeks after the surgery. Then he went to Franciscan Children’s.
“That was when he made the most progress,” Lianne said. “He went from being only eight or nine pounds to now 18 pounds. He’s a little pork chop. He just continues to thrive. He’s making so much progress. He’s smiling and playing. These are things he wouldn’t have done if he had stayed in the NICU.”
Nurse practitioner Stephanie Hopkins said she knew Stephen’s parents were motivated to get him home for the holidays.
“It is no small feat to take a child home with a tracheostomy and full-time ventilator support,” Hopkins said. “They were so committed to learning and becoming experts with his care. It was a pleasure working with them and it was amazing to see Stephen grow and get home before the holidays. I know that his progress will continue at home. I’m wishing them all the best over Thanksgiving and this holiday season. I am so thankful to have met them and to have helped them in getting their son home.”
Lianne and Dave hope their son will eventually be able to breathe on his own, without the help of machine, but for now, they’re enjoying spending time together, at home, doing nothing.
A family photo shoot with matching pajamas is planned in coming weeks.