UCLA Medical Center Celebrates NICU Graduates on Oct. 12; Palisadian Family With ‘Miracle Baby’ Will Join the Festivities
It was weeks before Palisadian Natasha Croxall could hold her newborn son Charlie. Born on Christmas Eve at only 24 weeks, he weighed just 1 pound 6 ounces at birth.
The preemie remained under the care of Dr. Khalil Tabsh, a 25-year Palisadian, and the NICU team at UCLA in Santa Monica and Brentwood for more than five months.
This year, a healthy, four-year-old Charlie started preschool at Calvary Christian School. By the way, he keeps up just fine with his older sister Ava, 10, and big brother Dutch, 8.
There are no indications this once-tiny baby had to fight against respiratory distress syndrome, a patent ductus arteriosis (an opening between the great vessels in the fetal heart that fails to close normally after birth), anemia which necessitated multiple blood transfusions, elevated bilirubin (jaundice), and an infection due to an immature immune system and frequent invasive procedures.
“Charlie is as much of a miracle as any baby could be. He was so tiny and so sick; he just wasn’t born ready for this world,” Croxall said. “If it wasn’t for Dr. Tabsh, Charlie wouldn’t be alive. He really fought to take the pregnancy to at least 24 weeks and I couldn’t have asked for a better doctor, a better team or better care. It’s amazing that they were able to save him.”
On Sunday, the Croxall family and Dr. Tabsh will be among scores of families, doctors and nurses at the UCLA NICU Graduates Party, an event that gives families a chance to reconnect with the medical professionals who provided life-saving care and expertise for their babies.
Tabsh said that 20 years ago, most medical centers did not resuscitate babies born at less than 24 weeks gestation and would have been reluctant to resuscitate newborns like Charlie even at 24 weeks gestation.
While doctors have identified problems associated with premature labor and screening methods to estimate those at risk, Tabsh said doctors still don’t know what causes premature labor and delivery in most cases.
“If we could identify the cause, we could help find a cure,” Tabsh said.
In Croxall’s case, she had one of the most common problems associated with premature labor and delivery, a multiple pregnancy that was further complicated by the loss of Charlie’s twin, Mary, due to a knot in the umbilical cord.
“Extreme prematurity is a very serious condition,” Tabsh said. “Because of the significant advances made in neonatal care over the last several decades, the survival rate for 24 week babies has increased to 60-80 percent in advanced care neonatal units like we have at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica and Westwood.”
Tabsh added, “Charlie was an amazing baby.”
Acknowledging advances in neonatal care, Croxall admits being separated from her sick, struggling son by a pane of glass was immensely challenging and required her to put her full trust in the NICU team caring for her son.
“Not being able to take home a baby really throws you off,” she said. “But I was just so happy that he was thriving and that I had him in this world. When I look back, I can’t believe everything that he went through. He was so strong and such a fighter. I know he was meant to be here, and I know his story will be a big part of his life. He is a miracle, and there isn’t a day that goes by that we take that for granted.”