Antioch parents take tiny baby home for holidays
Some Christmas presents come a little early, but Gina and Aaron Rupe's gift came 11 weeks early when their daughter Ashtyn was born Oct. 22 instead of New Year's Day as expected.
The Antioch couple finally took home their "miracle baby" Monday after she spent seven weeks at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville.
When Gina got pregnant in April she knew the odds were against her. After four miscarriages, she and her husband decided this would be their last try.
Once they passed the eight-week mark, Gina thought she was out of the woods, until she started feeling sick at work one Tuesday in October.
Working in Condell's billing department, Gina was only a few minutes from her doctors, who diagnosed her with severe preeclampsia, a form of high blood pressure.
The only solution was to deliver her baby prematurely. Gina said she was nervous but confident in her doctors.
"We knew she'd survive. We just didn't know what state she would be in and what kind of life she would have," Gina said.
Dr. Jennifer Schaefer has been Gina's OB-GYN for several years and had to break the news to the Rupes about an earlier miscarriage, so when she had to tell Gina that delivery was the only answer, she said it was like telling a family member.
Gina remembered the delivery room moments being scary, but as soon as she heard her daughter cry, she knew she would be OK.
Aaron, however, was a little more emotional.
"When I heard her cry, I started crying," he said. "I couldn't watch them work on her; I had to leave the room. I just kept thinking 'we got this far.'"
Ashtyn was born at 29 weeks 11 weeks premature and weighing 1 pound, 15 ounces, or about the size of a baby born after 25 or 26 weeks.
She is the smallest baby to ever be kept and treated at Condell. Previously babies so small or premature were sent to a different hospital, said Dr. Naveed Anwar, a neonatal specialist who worked with the Rupes.
The Rupes said their homecoming is bittersweet. While they are thrilled to finally take their baby home a few weeks before her original birth date they've grown close to the doctors and nurses at the hospital.
"Having known Gina and Aaron for a long time, it's very rewarding to see them go home with a healthy baby and a successful pregnancy," Schaefer said.
Gina said she is looking forward to the milestones ahead and soaking in every moment. She gave her daughter her first bath on Monday, free of wires.
"I'll feel more like a mother taking her home," she said.
The goal all along was for Ashtyn to celebrate Christmas at home in the holiday dress waiting for her. Ashtyn, who now weighs more than 4 pounds, will be home with her family this Christmas with a few weeks to spare.