Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

The Story of Jack Matthew

This story was shared by Lindsay, one of our readers.

I am writing to share our story of our 24 week (15 ounces) miracle with you…JACK MATTHEW

Now a little timeline of our whirlwind before I begin.  Matt and I had our first date in april 2005, engaged 2 weeks later, married 1 year later, pregnant 3 months later and jack was born 24 weeks later!  WHEW!!!!

Matt and I couldn’t wait to start a family so we were elated by a positive pregnancy test.  I would have never guessed I was pregnant, but you know those “fatherly” intuitions…Matt INSISTED I was.  And at 11pm one night, he was right.

I started going to my doctor right away (the next day) and started taking prenatal vitamins right away as well.  It was a silly little pregnancy thing I was actually excited about doing. I couldn’t wait to get big and round and wear maternity clothes.  I was ready to shop.

I went to my doctor once a month.  We found out at 19 weeks that we were having a baby boy.  .  At 23 weeks things started going downhill.  I had been experiencing some back pain from time to time and I just chalked it up as a pregnancy thing.   I mentioned the discomfort to the doctor and he said agreed. He then took my blood pressure and it was on the high side . I was to come back a few days later for a recheck.  When I went back y blood pressure was still high.  He recommended bed rest and to do a 24 hour urine check to see if I was spilling protein.  I was clueless as to what bed rest even was I even asked if I could work.    He did give me the okay to go to  thanksgiving with my family but to RELAX and check my blood pressure often  We went to thanksgiving and before we went home my uncle checked my blood pressure.  It was 160/110.  I was instructed to call my doc if the bottom number was in the 90s.  I called, I was told to head back to fort wayne and relax and lay down.  My blood pressure had gone down and I was to take it often and call again if it constantly stayed up.  I managed to make it to the next evening.  The pain in my back was so bad and the pain meds that I was given weren’t helping.  My blood pressure was climbing and at that point matt insisted I go to the emergency room.

After a call to my doc, they were expecting us in the ER.  I wasn’t nervous when I got there at all.  The staff was pretty laid back about everything when we got there.  They treated me for heartburn, even though I said it wasn’t that.    They drew some labs.  Once the labs came back everyone was rushing around.   They scurried around and got me up to the labor and delivery floor.  I still had no idea what was going on or what was going to happen.  The furthest thing from my mind was delivering our child.

In my mind, there were two ways to deliver a baby, you had a full term baby and took him or her home or  you had a miscarriage.  There was no inbetween for me.  You could say I was very naïve.  So like I said, the furthest thing from my mind was having my baby boy born anytime soon.

As we got up to the room, the doctor on call practically met us up there.  He stated that I was in very grave condition and that I would be lucky to still be pregnant by Monday.  Remember it’s Friday.

WHAT??  I’m in grave condition??  I just have a back ache.  My baby can be born??  I just started feeling him move around last week and Matt hasn’t even felt him yet.   He was a pound and a half at my last ultrasound.  He’s not going to be born.

The doctor then stated I had a condition called HELLP Syndrome.  It stands for hemolytic anemia, elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count.  So in other words I had a life threatening condition and I was at risk for bleeding, my liver rupturing and having seizures due to high blood pressure.  I WAS SCARED TO DEATH.  After the doctor left, the whole room was sobbing..  This couldn’t be happening.  I was told that the best-case scenario was to spend 6 weeks in the hospital to bake baby jack a bit longer.  That would put me at 30 weeks and give him a greater chance at surviving.

To make the rest of the time short, I didn’t last very long.  Jack Matthew Bowling was born the following Monday morning at 12:12am.  The doctor was right….I only lasted until Monday morning.  All my labs were looking ugly and they couldn’t wait any longer for fear of my liver rupturing.

I was able to be awake during the c-section which was a blessing so that Matt could be there as well.

Jack came out and we heard a little cry that sounded just like a newborn kitten.  The doctor told us how much he weighed.  I heard 15 ounces.  I looked at matt and said….how many pounds, I just heard 15 ounces.  He said “baby, there are no pounds.  Jack only weighs 15 ounces.”


But in fact, jack came out weighing 15 ounces and was 11.5 inches long.  Almost the size of a dollar bill, but a bit longer.

And so our NICU journey began.  And boy was it a roller coaster ……..and quite a long one.

He was put on an oscillator right away for life support and at 2 weeks he was put on a conventional ventilator.  His biggest problem for the next three months was weaning off the ventilator.  He couldn’t keep his oxygen sats stabilized…..ever.  at one point they were even at zero.

One of the hardest things about the beginning of the NICU was not being able to hold our son, let alone touch him. we didn’t even see his whole face for about 3 days due to it being covered up.  They had built him an artificial womb and he was hard to see.  We were unable to move him at all, even to weigh him until after the first week because of the risk of him having a brain bleed.  At one week he had a head scan and it came back with no bleeds WHAT A MIRACLE!.  At this point he was weighed and much to our dismay he lost weight….and at 15 ounces, you can’t get much worse.  He weighed 12.3 ounces.  I remember a doctor telling me that his main concern right now was getting him over the 1 pound mark and after that happened he would feel much better about his outcome.  Matt wanted to start putting milkshakes in his IVS and feedings.

And speaking of feedings.  Jack started out at about 10 drops of breast milk every 3 hours and got all the way up to 2 ounces every 2-3 hours by the time we went home.

I can’t say that there was a point where things were SUPER scary.   Everyday was scary.  There were days that he had important tests done to determine more of an outcome for him.  Like at 1 week old he had a heart echo and a brain scan to determine if he had a whole in his heart or if he had bleeding in the brain.  Each of those results determined the next course of treatment.

He was put on nitric oxide  at about 1 month of age and stayed on that for the next 2 months.  That was to help with pulmonary hypertension.  And along with prayers, I think that is one of the things that saved his life!!!

Also at about 1 month, something else happened that saved me.  At this point during our journey I was already in a dark spot.  I was depressed.  I failed my son.  I was robbed of my pregnancy.  But  On Christmas day, a wish of mine finally came true.  After whining and begging one of the doctors, I was finally able to hold my son for the first time.  It was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had.  I held him for about 20 minutes.  He did wonderful.  He was wide awake, his sats stayed up and so did his temperature.

He also had his eyes checked numerous times for a condition called retinopathy of prematurity.  He came extremely close to needing laser eye surgery, but just in the knick of time, his eyes started to look better and we were saved from that.

At about 3 months of age, he was finally taken off the ventilator.  We were very nervous about this.  He hadn’t been tolerating being weaned off of it at all and even talked about a trach.

Feb 27, 2006 he was taken off of it and put on a CPAP.  He hated it.  It lasted about 10 days and then he was finally able to be on a nasal canula with oxygen.    He seemed to tolerate that pretty well.

During the course of our 133 day stay, jack had 12 blood transfusions and 3 platelet transfusions.  2 heart echos, 2 brain scans, 1 hernia surgery, 1 MRI, over 150 xrays, about the same amount of blood draws and probably about 20 different IV sites.

He had his first bottle 1 day after his original due date and came home about 1 month after his original due date.  He came home with oxygen, an apnea monitor and a oxygen saturation monitor.

He was home for about 2 months and was able to come off of oxygen.  He started physical therapy and occupational therapy through Indiana First steps and participated in an hour of therapy a week for each.  He graduated from therapy about 1 week ago and is doing outstanding.

He did reach most of his milestones late.  He sat up at 10 months.  Crawled at about 13 months and walked at 15 months. Now he RUNS!!!!

Jack still sees many doctors.  The pulmonologist,  the ENT and the opthmalogist.   They have become like family to us!!

He is now 4.5 years old and is wise beyond his years.  Quick witted and just the best thing in life.  He is also now joined by a baby sister, Brooke, who was also born early (33 weeks) She only had to spend 3 weeks in the NICU but also due to HELLP Syndrome.

Hope you enjoyed our story and hope that he has inspired people and gave them hope!!! MIRACLES DO HAPPEN!!!!

Afton Mower About Afton Mower

After Mower (UT) lost her firstborn son at 21 weeks.  Her daughter was born a year and a half later at 27 weeks.  The NICU was overwhelming and isolating and it was through those two experiences she was led to found this social hub for parents to find the support they needed. Afton also gave birth to another daughter, born two days overdue after four months of strict bedrest. She believes it is a tender experience to hold a special baby in your arms when his spirit returns to his heavenly home, a miracle to watch tiny babies survive the risks of prematurity and a blessing to hold a healthy full-term baby after months of difficulty and sacrifices.


  1. Great story. As the mom of a healthy & happy 23 weeker this story touched me.

  2. Thanks you so much for sharing your story! what a huge blessing he is. I just looked up the meaning of your little babe’s name and it means “God is Gracious”. How true! I also delivered early due to HELLP, but made it to 31 weeks. Were you nervous for your 2nd?

  3. Both of my boys were born due to HELLP, 1st at 25 weeks, 2nd at 28 weeks. I don’t think I will ever get over the overwhelming guilt that I failed them at something so basic, something that some women can seemingly do at the drop of a hat.

  4. What a great story. Our Anya was 1lb 15oz. Eclampsia and HELLP, I was inpatient by 20 weeks and we made it to 27. She did well in the NICU and came home at 3lbs, a month before she was due, on no monitors. She turns three next month and is very petite but smart and feisty!

  5. My little guy was born at 32 weeks with me diagnosed with HELLP. It was scary but I feel blessed to have been well cared for in the hospital and my son turns two one week from today! My daughter, 4 was born full term…What a difference!

  6. Incredible story. And it took me back to my kiddo. Also born due to HELLP at 26 weeks. She weighed 1 lb. even. and was 11 in. long. 6 months in the hospital. Lots of the same ups and downs as you (including no bleeding in the brain. Amazing!!). She’ll be 4 in October and even though it’s been a LONG road to get to where we are-she is doing great! Thanks for sharing your story. What a great blessing. I also had my 2nd baby at 33 weeks due to HELLP.

  7. thanks for sharing your story, so glad it was a happy ending for both of your miracles!
    I am a mom of a 27 weeker, 1lb 1 oz , 132 days in nicu, 6 surgeries. He is now 2 1/2 yrs tiny at 22 lbs but right on track for development, healthy and HAPPY.
    I suffered from HELLP Class 1 and would like another child but dont know that i have the strenght to go down that road again. Good for you for having the faith to do so 🙂 wishing you and your family many healthy happy years to come !

  8. thanks for sharing the story, i’m also a mother of adorable triplets born at 27 weeks and 4 days in 2008. They are all healthy and doing great. Miracles do happen. They are my miracle children.

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