There are medical miracles and then there are simply miracles. Karen and Brian Wollman were told that their third child would be stillborn. And while their son was born alive, he was never expected to live. They prepared for his funeral, but this little boy wasn't giving up without a fight.
The Wollmans looked forward to the birth of their third child. But an ultrasound showed that not only did their baby boy have Down’s Syndrome, he also had hydrops, which caused his body to swell with fluid. Doctors told the Wollmans he would likely be stillborn.
"They told us to expect that. But in my heart, you have to hold onto hope, so I just kept on telling him each and every day to keep his light shining bright. And I would sing him, This Little Light of Mine, each and every day. I would look in the backyard and see Riley and Paisley playing in the playhouse and I would envision this little boy one day being able to do that and that's what got me through," Karen said.
Renner Wollman was born at 35 weeks by emergency C-section.
"He did not cry when he was born, but he took one breath. All I remember is Brian crying and screaming, 'Thank you. Thank you.' We were just so happy we were going to meet him alive," Karen said.
But keeping Renner alive was a struggle for his doctors.
"Within the first day, they sat us down and said, 'He's in kidney failure. If we can't get his kidneys to work within the next 12 hours, he's going to die,'" Karen said.
"We weren't able to oxygenate his lung appropriately. He had to be put on the oscillator and we had to paralyze him. He had a very rocky course and he challenged us in every possible way," Sanford Neonatologist Dr. M. Akram Khan said
"It was a roller coaster really. It was up and down, up and down," Brian Wollman said.
The Wollmans were told to prepare for their son's death and the medical team asked for their last wishes.
"Because I wanted something--if he wasn't going to survive, something that I had done with him; and even though I did not get to hold him very often that meant the world to me," Karen said.
Karen asked the hospital if she could bring her rocking chair up to Renner's room and rock him.
"And I think I held him that day for about four hours. And little by little, from that moment on, he started getting better," Karen said.
"Babies like that humble us and they also give us hope and Renner's given us a lot of hope," Kahn said.
So instead of taking their baby home to die, more than six months after he was born, Renner came home to live.
"The doctors don't know. They said he's not a medical miracle; he's a real miracle. And they don't know why," Karen said. "I know he was touched by the hand of grace."
Now about to turn two, you'd never know that this happy, go-lucky little guy was in a battle for his life.
"I wholeheartedly believe that's what's part of his survival is about. He just has inner drive and determination," Karen said.
"Dr. Kahn and any of us who've been doing this for a lot of years will remember a handful of children who have made a monumental impact on us professionally and Renner is one of those children for us," Sanford Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Lisa Lubbers said.
"It is a miracle to see Renner floating around--running around and doing the things he's doing. He's just a beautiful little kid," Kahn said.
Renner does have to be on oxygen because he had lung disease from being on the ventilator so long. He also has a feeding tube and other ongoing medical issues. But this family doesn't consider the fact that he has an extra chromosome a drawback.
"We call it his T-21 super powers," Karen said.
"I can't imagine my life without him now. I love him to death," Brian said.
"There's not a day that goes by that we're not grateful. Every heartbeat is a heartbeat of gratitude for what was done and it's something I can't even put into words," Karen said.
And you get the sense that Renner, who's just learning to form his words, is grateful too.
Renner would not have been able to withstand being moved from his hospital bed for x-rays. He was put in a giraffe bed for the sickest babies, which meant he didn't have to be moved. That bed is paid for by the money you donate to the Children's Miracle Network. You can watch the Children's Miracle Network Special coming up on KELOLAND TV this Thursday night at 7 p.m. on KELOLAND TV.