Clint and Laura Albritton were well prepared for the arrival of their first child, a daughter to be named Lily Kate. Lily Kate already had a room awaiting her in the Albritton Tallahassee home.
She had monogrammed blankets, toys chosen specifically for her and a sign that hung in her room declaring it “Lily’s Pad.”
Clint had been formulating the birth announcement he would text message to friends and family for weeks. Laura had created a specific birth plan for how Lily Kate would be born. The arrival of Lily Kate was highly anticipated for these new, eager parents-to-be.
On Thursday, February 10, at about 3 a.m. Laura was admitted to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital at 39 weeks pregnant.
At 7:30 p.m. that night, the OBGYN decided that Laura would need a cesarean section, as Lily Kate was not progressing far enough into the birth canal for a normal delivery. It was a routine C-section and although it was not a part of her birth plan, she kept thinking, “I get to meet my little girl in an hour.”
Lily Kate was born at 8:12 p.m. on Thursday, February 10. Clint and Laura waited to hear the first cry of their little girl, but there was no cry. They had wondered what she would look like for nine months, but were not able to hold her as doctors immediately began rushing around. Laura looked over at her daughter and saw that her belly was completely still.
“Time slows down when you are waiting to hear a cry,” Laura said.
For the next few hours, doctors worked to help save Lily. Laura and Clint did not fully understand what was happening to their daughter and Laura had to be given a sedative to calm her down.
Two hours later, Clint and Laura were told that they could meet their baby for the first time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
“It was not the way I had envisioned meeting my baby,” Laura said.
The doctors then explained that Lily Kate’s lung had collapsed and that it had to be inflated with a tube. Lily Kate had moderate Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE), which is a brain injury due to a lack of oxygen and blood flow to the brain. Moderate HIE can lead to mental conditions such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation or seizures.
They also explained that she was going to be transferred to Shands Hospital at the University of Florida in Gainesville to undergo a body cooling therapy that must begin within the first six hours of life. This therapy is the only brain-specific therapy that has been proven to reduce the long-term risks. It is a therapy that lasts for 72 hours where the body is lowered to approximately 92 degrees Fahrenheit. After this time, the body is gradually warmed back to normal body temperature.
“I had never heard of body cooling, but knew that we had to take any opportunity we had to help our baby,” Clint said.
Clint and Laura then said goodbye to Lily Kate before she left for Shands. Knowing that the travel from Tallahassee to Gainesville would be hard on Lily Kate, Laura thought, “it might be the last time I ever see my baby girl,”
Lily Kate made it safely to Gainesville within the six-hour time frame and began the body cooling immediately upon arrival on late Friday night. On Sunday when Laura arrived, Lily Kate had almost completed the 72 hours of cooling treatment.
The following day was Valentine’s Day and Lily Kate began the warming process. Both Laura and Clint were “nervous to hear the news about Lily.”
The MRI showed that there were three spots that indicated brain damage, but no spots on the frontal lobe, which controls cognitive function. Lily Kate did suffer some damage to the part of the brain that controls movement in the upper right extremity of her body. This damage was not severe and Lily will need to undergo preventative and therapeutic physical and occupational therapy to help her range of motion and grip for her right arm.
Clint describes this as a banner moment for him as “its hard to think of a better outcome.”
Both Clint and Laura believe that this situation has made their family stronger.
“We will not take things for granted that many people do. Crying will never be a nuisance to us like it is for many familiesbecause we will never forget the time when we wanted nothing else but to hear our daughter cry,” Clint said.
Lily Kate was released from Shands Hospital on Saturday, February 19, as responsive and hungry as any baby. She is now back inher Tallahassee home, and every night she sleeps in her room with the “Lily’s pad” sign that was made just for her.
Clint described his family’s next step as finally, “beginning to do what we had always planned to do: be a family.”