With wide, liquid eyes and a quick, gummy grin Brett Davis looks like any other baby resting his mother’s arms a month after returning home from the hospital.
But Brett and his parents, Ayme and Len, have traveled a long road to get here. Born at only 25 weeks and three days, Brett has been fighting the statistics stacked against him as a preemie since his birthday last may.
Following a routine check-up, Ayme inexplicably went into labor early. Brett’s twin brother Briley had a severe heart defect and the Davis’ were braced for the fact that he would not live long after birth. The doctor and staff were “wonderful” according to Ayme, and able to buy some “crucial time” between her first contractions and the delivery.
The newest addition to the Davis household was a tiny, 1-pound-15-ounce miracle.
But within two days Brett had developed NEC, a complication in the intestines common among preemies. A week after his birth, the Davis’ headed to Vanderbilt Hospital for a critical surgery that would remove the damaged 25 percent of Brett’s intestines, a temporary situation until he was big enough to survive a follow-up, re-connective surgery.
The tiny child almost didn’t survive the first surgery. One nurse later said Brett was “circling the drain.” The doctors and nurses worked through the night as Brett’s family waited.
“We went to bed not knowing if he was going to make it,” Ayme said. “We had already lost our first son; he died in our arms.” The couple fell asleep waiting for their family or the doctors to bring bad news. But morning dawned and they returned to the waiting room.
“It was a very surreal time. That was the worst walk, waiting to see what he had done,” Ayme said.
“I just looked at my dad and her dad,” Len said. “They were smiling and you could feel the presence of God.”
For the next few months, the Davis’ lives revolved around their son and his harrowing journey, dodging one obstacle after another as they waited on their baby to get big enough for his re-connective surgery. “The doctors told us every ounce is critical when you are operating on someone this small,” Len said.
It seemed everything that could happen to Brett, did. Each day brought a new challenge and “Brett didn’t do anything as you’d expect,” Ayme said. “He always throws everybody a curve.”
Back home, Brett had another fan who couldn’t wait for his homecoming – his big sister Carley. August 13, the bubbly little girl had her first opportunity to hold her new baby brother.
“It was history,” Ayme said smiling. “She completely turned possessive. She sang to him. She always wanted to be holding his fingers and touching his little hand. Her world was turned upside down too, and we give her a lot of credit.”
Finally, at six-and-a-half pounds, the doctors agreed Brett was ready for surgery “that would determine how he would be for the rest of his life.” After four and half hours of intense operation on intestines the size of spaghetti noodles, “Dr. Lang came walking down the hall, shaking his head with a little grin on his face,” Ayme said. The big thing, she said, to determine the success of the surgery, “you wait for him to poop.”
Len laughed, “We had a celebration over poop! Most parents don’t get excited over a dirty diaper!”
Seven pounds and five months after his birthday, Brett was finally able to join his family at their home in Jackson, Tenn. The only thing that has pulled them through the experience, they said, is the grace of God and their family.
“We know there is a reason this has happened to us,” Ayme said as Brett giggled in his swing at their new house. “We cannot wait to find out what this kid is going to do with his life. We think just as good as he’s doing, that’s a witness to itself.”
Len fidgeted with his son’s swing and said, “There were times we were just numb; we couldn’t feel or cry. Our family and friends had to feel and cry for us. They were always positive when we didn’t have anything left to give and couldn’t feel anything.”
The Davis’ said the support from family, friends and the community (so much they had to install an extra phone “hot line” to keep everybody updated) has been phenomenal.
“It’s so awesome to see him smile,” Ayme said, returning her gaze to her son. “He just smiles all the time. We’re just going to move forward and Brett will show us what he can do.”