WORTHINGTON, Minn. (KELO) — According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately one in ten infants are born prematurely every year in the United States. That’s nearly a half-million preterm births, 80% of which are unexpected.
That was the case for Teresa Bravo, who gave birth at just 22 weeks, two days, but baby Mateo has been defying the odds since day one.
Mateo Bravo appears to be a typical baby. His story is anything but. A year ago, Mateo’s mom, Teresa, had just hit the halfway mark of her pregnancy, and was experiencing pain.
“We just went to the doctor and they told us it was just a ligament pain. Then we ended up going back, and then that’s when they ended up telling us, oh you’re in labor he’s going to come,” Mateo’s mom Teresa Bravo said.
Five months along, Bravo’s “normal” pregnancy had been turned upside down.
“It’s not something that you see every day and you don’t expect a 22-weeker to walk in and to deliver,” Sanford Worthington registered nurse Ashley Bonnstetter said.
“For her case, it was definitely a different story because she came in basically ready to deliver, so we had to get all teams on deck,” Sanford Worthington registered nurse Paige Clark said.
Registered nurses Paige Clark and Ashley Bonnstetter were part of the team at Sanford Worthington.
“The viability is 24 weeks, so you just don’t expect a 22-weeker to survive, so you want to do as much as you can for the family and for the baby as well, and hope that in the end things will work out,” Bonnstetter said.
“I feel like that baby is a miracle baby, and so lucky to be here,” Clark said.
“We didn’t really know how it was going to go since he was born so early, and they did tell us he has like a 5% chance of living,” Bravo said.
Mateo entered the world one-pound, three-ounces, his foot the size of a quarter. After being airlifted to Sioux Falls, he proceeded to spend the next 123 days in the NICU.
“His skin was really red, so we really just watched him grow in there. It was kind of amazing,” Bravo said.
“I’m sure it was such a roller coaster over in the NICU, staying in the Ronald McDonald House, just not really knowing exactly what’s going to happen for her baby, if her baby is going to survive. I can’t imagine going through that,” Bonnstetter said.
The worst days included infections and a grade 3 brain bleed, but Bravo says the experience as a whole went about as well as four months in the NICU could possibly go.
“We thought he was going to have more setbacks, but everything went perfectly when we changed machines, CPAP, everything he did perfect with it,” Bravo said.
Mom, like Mateo, stayed strong for 123 days, but couldn’t have done it on her own.
“A lot of people helped me get through it. I know his dad did, my mom, my sister, like everybody was, when they could be there, they would be there with me,” Bravo said.
Bravo says Mateo’s doctors are proud of his progress since leaving the NICU.
“They told me he wouldn’t have teeth until about 15 months, adjusted, but he has two teeth now. He got them when he was around seven months, adjusted, which was eleven months,” Bravo said.
Doctors added that nobody would suspect Mateo was once a 22-week baby.
“I think he’s been doing perfect. He’s learning how to crawl, he’s standing up and everything, and he’s just doing good, he’s been on track,” Bravo said.
He’s even starting to talk.
“He’s been saying mom a lot, so that really makes me so happy because I didn’t expect him to start talking so soon,” Bravo said.
The nurses who helped bring Mateo into the world are also keeping tabs on his progress.
“Thankful for social media that allows us to do that without physically being able to meet with each other, especially now with COVID, so Facebook is really nice to be able to keep in touch and she posts updates all the time and it’s awesome to see that,” Clark said.
“We became friends on Facebook and we can see pictures that she posts and it looks like he’s doing really well,” Bonnstetter said.
Against all odds, Mateo will celebrate his first birthday on Monday. His presence is gift enough for mom, who believes the best is yet to come.
“He has a reason to be here, so I think he’s going to do something big in life. God gave him the opportunity to stay here with us and he’s going to do good with it,” Bravo said.
Teresa says doctors aren’t sure what caused her to go into labor at only 22 weeks.
November is National Prematurity Awareness Month, and next Tuesday, November 17th is World Prematurity Day, which was created to help raise awareness for preterm birth.