Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

December 28, 2012

Baby thriving after premature birth

Jackson Adams
Effingham Daily News

DIETERICH —     Karli Goeckner was born so premature that she had only a 1 in 20 chance of surviving beyond her first few hours of life.

    But a year after the Dieterich child’s birth at just 23 1/2 weeks and with the help of family, community members and good medical care, Karli may be out of the woods.

    “We were terrified,” said Brittany Goeckner of the time when she and her husband, Luke, learned that something terribly wrong was happening with their unborn child. “The last time we were in Champaign when I was on bed rest, we had the neonatal doctors come in and talk to us. They said that if she was born within 24 weeks, there was only a 5 percent survival rate. And they kind of told us that usually they won’t even do anything to try to save (the baby).”

    By that point, Brittany had been on bed rest at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana for weeks. But the news in November 2011 that Karli was about to be born, and might die, was something the Goeckners were not prepared for.

    “Everything was going good and then we went in there for a check-up, and then things just went south,” said Luke, who smiled at Karli while holding his daughter Thursday. “You just didn’t want to stay in there, did you?”

    When Karli was born, she weighed a mere 1 pound, 5 ounces. Surgeries and physical, speech and developmental therapy will be a part of her life for years, but Brittany said she could remember when things were much worse.

    Karli was born with necrotizing enterocolitis, a condition seen in premature infants that causes gastrointestinal problems. She also had patent ductus ateriosus, or PDA, a heart condition where a duct in a child’s heart hasn’t naturally closed after being born early.

    Her parents said they remember the difficulty of those days of surgery and helpless waiting in the hospital.

    “It was awful,” said Luke.

    “It was just terrifying because everyday we didn’t know if she was going to live or not,” said Brittany. “We just tried to spend as much time with her as we could.”

    After Karli was moved to St. Louis Children’s Hospital, the Goeckners started gaining some support from the community. Their family began organizing a benefit in Teutopolis to help fund Karli’s care. And the community was more than happy to respond, the Goeckners said.

    After a silent auction, dinner and donations from individuals and local companies, the Goeckners received around $45,000 in donations.

    “It was so many people we didn’t know” who helped with Karli’s bills, said Brittany. “We got cards in the mail from people we had never heard of. She would not have received all of the medical care the she needed to get her where she needed to be without those benefits.”

    “I couldn’t believe how good the community came together to help out,” said Luke. “That’s just amazing.”

    In March, Karli finally came home. She was still on a feeding tube at the time, but she’s continued to improve. Brittany said she remembers the palpable sense of relief she felt having her daughter home with her.

    “It was like we could see the light,” she said. “It was like everything was kind of a fog until she came home, just the stress and the worry and, you know, leaving her there because you have to go home for something. Leaving her there with someone else was just scary.

    “You could feel guilty for leaving her there even when you had to,” she said. “And then you kind of question if she’s going to know us as mom and dad when she comes home because there’s still other people there with her.”

    Karli is catching up to age group. She’s extremely active, moving around, jumping in her bouncer and playing with the family dog. For her parents, these moments of growth, away from hospitals, are valued even more after the early trials.

    “It feels like, I don’t know, it makes you think that it happened for a reason,” Brittany said. “It gave us the experience of seeing what other people have gone through I guess. Nobody expects it to happen to them, so it helps you to understand other people’s situations a little better.

    “It’s hard, very hard, but I think it makes you appreciate your child more,” said Karli’s mom. “I think just the thought that she may not have been here, we may not have had this whole year with her. We might have only had a couple of days with her.”