Children’s Miracle Network helps Sanford NICU care for smallest-ever baby

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The Children’s Miracle Network has helped to make miracles happen at the Sanford Children’s Hospital since the 1980s, providing funds for pediatric research, medical care and equipment.

Last year CMN’s donations to the Sanford NICU played a key role in helping the hospital care for its smallest-ever baby.

Braelynn Tracy’s dad says she definitely earned the title of a miracle baby this year—proof that miracles come in all shapes and sizes. Baby Braelynn celebrating her first birthday this year was certainly a miracle, that all started out the size of the Butterfinger candy bar.

“She was 9 and 3/4 inches long so not very long at all and 11.5 ounces, so less than a can of pop,” dad John Tracy said.

Now it’s easier for mom and dad, John and Jacinda Tracy, to find those snack-food size comparisons of their little miracle, but in the moment, the reality was much harder.

“Nervous was the right word,” John said. “They do such a good job of telling you what to expect, but that’s very scary at the same time.”

A very nerve-racking situation the couple had very little time to prepare for. Mom Jacinda went for a normal OB check-up on February 14. That’s when her doctor told her she would be having her baby in the next few days.

“I was getting sicker and Braelynn too, so we ended up delivering on February 15,” Jacinda said.

Baby Braelynn was born in February when she was supposed to come into the world in June. Jacinda had been pregnant for just 23 weeks and five days.

“We went into this knowing it was time to deliver for mom’s sake, that was where we were at, it was time to go so we could save mom. We’re going to do what we can and hopefully have a baby by the end,” John said.

Those first few moments of Braelynn’s life were the most nerve-racking for both her parents and her medical team.

“I got to watch roughly 15 doctors and nurses all trying to work around a child that literally could fit inside the palm of your hand,” John said.

A baby girl that could fit in your hand, but was too small to be held.

“You have this beautiful precious baby and you can’t get in there, she was in the giraffe bed so you couldn’t get in there and touch her or hold her,” John said.

Braelynn spent the first four months of her life in a giraffe bed, donated to the Sanford Children’s Hospital by the Children’s Miracle Network.

“That bed is a lifesaving piece of equipment, not only is it airtight and keeps all the germs out but it helps maintain body heat, without doing that there’s no Braelynn today,” John said.

This little miracle baby had a long road to continue growing outside the womb.

“When she was born she had a blood clot that was blocking her one kidney, so she only has one good working kidney right now,” Jacinda said.  “She got two major brain bleeds, so we ended up putting a shunt in. That got infected, then we put a new one in with a valve this time. She had laser surgery and shots in her eyes and had a G-tube placed.”

In all, Braelynn was in the NICU for 191 days—the first six months of her life.

“During a long stay like that you just can’t be there the whole time, there were work commitments I had to uphold,” John said.

John and Jacinda spent countless hours on the road throughout her NICU stay, commuting from their jobs and home in Sheldon Iowa, back to Sioux Falls to see their daughter.

“It was hard to drive back and forth and it was hard to leave her up there but we knew she was in good hands,” John said.

The Children’s Miracle Network helped support mom and dad throughout the entirety of Braelynn’s NICU stay.

“Providing food so we didn’t have to go anywhere, meal tickets, eating in the hospital all of the time gets expensive,” John said.

Now Braelynn is growing stronger each day.

“It’s fun to watch her meet those standards as time comes and watch her grow and just pass a hurdle one at a time and keep gaining,” John said.

A parent’s pride in just how far their little Butterfinger-sized miracle has come.

“There has definitely been more than one miracle that we have met being a part of the Children’s Miracle Network,” John said.

Now they hope to give back to the organization that gave their family so much.

“We didn’t think too much of the Children’s Miracle Network until we had to, now we’re trying to be a part of it and trying to donate as much as we can too. It’s not going to Braelynn, it’s for the next baby, and you don’t know who it’s going to be. It could be someone you know, could be someone you don’t know,” John said.

To help babies like Braelynn and other children dealing with medical battles, you can donate to the Children’s Miracle Network in Sioux Falls where 100% of your donations will stay local right here at Sanford Children’s hospital.

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