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Published on January 08, 2019

Baby Kameryn with mom

Baby Kameryn: Overcoming the odds at 23 weeks

On June 16, 2017, Kameryn Vian came into this world without warning, weighing just 1 pound 3.8 ounces, or about the weight of four sticks of butter.

Every year, 10 to 12 percent of babies in the U.S. are born prematurely (birth before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy). Only about 1 percent are born at an extremely low birth weight like Kameryn.

"I was one scared mother," shares Melinda (Mindi) Vian of Sparta, Wis., who delivered her daughter at 23 weeks. "No one knows why our babies come early. But trust me, they are in the best hands at Gundersen," says Mindi.

24/7 care in the NICU

Gundersen Health System has a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), which means Kameryn was within arm's reach of advanced technology and an entire team of experts who are trained in rapid response protocols and evidence-based clinical guidelines to treat infants born under difficult circumstances.

"The outcomes of extremely low birth weight babies in our care are comparable to the nation's best children's hospitals," states Gundersen neonatologist and NICU medical director Kate Moen, MD, FAAP. "Of all babies born at Kameryn's age and weight, only about 6 percent survive, but for those who have immediate access to NICUs like ours, particularly with sophisticated ventilators, survival can approach 20 percent. Yet, even under the best of circumstances, most survivors will have some degree of disability."

During Kameryn's five-and-a-half-month NICU stay, she required a ventilator, oxygen, IVs and a gastrostomy (G-tube); developed chronic lung disease and bleeding in her brain; had 17 blood transfusions; and underwent laser surgery to treat retinopathy of prematurity.

She also needed the assistance of many pediatric subspecialists, including a cardiologist, neurologist, ophthalmologist, endocrinologist, surgeons and therapists to keep her alive.

"It was a rollercoaster ride," says Mindi, "Yet, there was never a scary moment that I went through alone. The team involved me in every part of Kameryn's care."

Most impressive, according to Mindi, was the love and knowledge of the NICU team. "Many of the nurses are mothers or grandmothers. They take your child in like one of their own. There is a lot of love up there!"

On Nov. 30, 2017, after a long-awaited homecoming, Kameryn joined her big brothers Brayden and Malakai at home. "Every nurse was in our room the day we went home," recalls Mindi. "I remember Dr. Kate saying, 'You'll do great, Mindi.' I broke down and cried, thinking 'I can't do this without all of you.'"

Care beyond the NICU

Receiving specialized care and support did not end when Kameryn went home from the NICU. Under Gundersen's Pediatric Medical Home model of care, Kameryn's primary care team provides coordinated care and helps her family navigate the healthcare system, calling on pediatric specialty services, when needed.

Among those specialty services, Kameryn sees a pediatric endocrinologist, pediatric ophthalmologist, a registered dietitian, speech therapist and has her very own care coordinator. She is also seen in Gundersen's NICU Follow-Up Clinic.

"We see children in the NICU Follow- Up Clinic at regular intervals during their first four years of life to screen for developmental or growth-related issues associated with their prematurity," states David Gerhard, MD, director of the NICU Follow-Up Clinic. "Our team has all of the needed pediatric experts to diagnose and treat problems early if they do arise. This specialty care will help Kameryn meet her full potential."

"It's comforting to know there is always someone to answer any question I have, because they've been with Kameryn for so long," Mindi shares. "The support here is wonderful."

Now at 19 months old, Kameryn continues to make slow but steady progress, thanks to her extended care team and her biggest advocate of all—her mom Mindi.

To learn more about the NICU, go to

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