Jag's journey: Couple celebrates premature baby's milestones

by Sonja J. Keith

Jag Robinson may have only weighed less than two pounds when he was born prematurely, but he’s a big miracle to his family.

Jag’s parents, Kelsey and Brian Robinson, met while attending Greenbrier High School. Kelsey, originally from Monroe County, moved to Greenbrier in the 10th grade. Brian was born and raised in Wooster. The two have been married for nearly four years. He is a cable technician for Conway Corporation, and she is a nurse at Greenbrier Nursing and Rehab.

After trying to have a baby for nearly two years, the couple found out in February that they were expecting a baby on Nov. 5. Brian and Kelsey picked the name Jag for their son. They wanted him to share Brian’s middle name, Colby, but with a long last name, they wanted a short first name.

A friend suggested Jagger but they decided on Jag Colby Robinson. “He has really grown into that name,” said his mom.

The first few months of Kelsey’s pregnancy were uneventful. “I had a wonderful first trimester,” Kelsey said. But, things started to happen.

In June, the baby showed a week behind in growth. In July, Jag was two weeks behind. The following week, an ultrasound showed a three-week growth lag but “everything else looked good” with no indication of distress, according to Kelsey, who was feeling fine but her blood pressure had gradually increased.

Referred to a Little Rock specialist, Dr. Adam Sandlin told the couple that the developments suggested that they would probably deliver their baby early. “He (Jag) was great. He was active and his heart rate was good. They weren’t showing any major concerns,” Kelsey said.

After her 26th week appointment, Kelsey developed a severe headache, which she thought was probably related to stress. The level prompted a visit to the emergency room and a transfer by ambulance on Aug. 1 to UAMS in Little Rock where she was treated and admitted. The medical team watched Kelsey for signs of pre-eclampsia, a serious condition. “Dr. Sandlin came in and said, ‘You’re not going home until you have this baby.’”

It was thought that Kelsey might be able to wait two to three weeks before delivering. Her condition appeared to be stable and there was talk about sending her home for bedrest, but on Aug. 6, at 27 weeks, Kelsey experienced severe pain in her upper back. She was given medicine but the pain worsened and her blood pressure went up. Lab work showed her liver enzyme count was increasing and her platelet count had dropped.

“The doctor came in and said, ‘I think we need to go up to labor and delivery.’”

The medical staff continued to monitor her condition, which continued to deteriorate, but no problems were detected with Jag. “He was great,” Kelsey said. “The doctor said, ‘He’s not in any distress but you’re getting sicker.’”

Brian added, “And he said, ‘We’re fixing to have a baby.’”

Concerned for Kelsey, the doctor and staff quickly prepared to deliver the baby by Caesarian. The procedure went well, which Brian said looked like a football play – the doctor as the quarterback handing off the baby to a nurse or running back who whisked Jag away so his condition could be assessed and treatment could begin. Later, a nurse came and got Brian so he could see his newborn son. Kelsey got to see her son for the first time in recovery. “It was very, very brief,” she said. “That was pretty emotional for us. He was so tiny.”

Born at 11:01 a.m. on Aug. 6, Jag weighed 1 pound, 5 ounces and was 13 inches long.

Brian said while most people have seen photos of a premature baby, not many have seen one in person. “You’re not sure what you’re seeing,” he said. “He looks like a regular baby but just shrunk down.”

Jag was active, another good sign, and his kidneys were working. Placed on a ventilator, Jag’s lungs also responded the first day. “It was scary at first,” Brian said. “We were told that the first 24 to 48 hours were the most critical.”

Brian slept in the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) with Jag while Kelsey was hospitalized on another floor. He would text photos to Kelsey and they also used FaceTime so she could see her son. “At first, if anything made a beep, you didn’t know what was going on,” Brian said. “You would hop up and pray that he was OK.”

Kelsey was diagnosed with Hellp syndrome, a life-threatening pregnancy complication usually considered to be a variant of pre-eclampsia. As she recovered, Kelsey continued to be treated for high blood pressure and it took several days before she felt better.

After several days, Kelsey was finally able to see her son in person and touch him. “There were so many emotions. I was happy but also sad to see my precious baby in an Isolette so helpless but wow, what a miracle.” While still very sick, Kelsey would go to the NICU as often as she could.

It was eight days after his birth before mom could hold her son for the first time. Before, it was tough only getting to touch him because of the tubes and monitors attached to his small frame. “I felt complete when I got to hold him,” she said. “I felt I was actually Jag’s mom. It was very surreal to feel him on my chest,” adding that it was hard for her, knowing that he should still be inside of her. “I knew I was his mom but not getting to hold him was heartbreaking.”

Brian anticipates that being parents won’t set in until they are able to take their baby home.

In the days that have followed, Jag has gained weight and grown. There have been “up and down” days, but Kelsey points out there have been more good days than bad. “He’s done absolutely remarkable,” she said. “God certainly has a purpose for him.”

y has made a full recovery and was discharged from the hospital on Aug. 10. “I came straight down here (to the NICU).” She now stays in Jag’s room, which has a sleeper sofa. “We are very lucky to be here,” Brian said. Both sleep at the hospital each night, with Brian driving to Conway in the mornings to go to work and returning to UAMS in the evenings.

Jag’s Isolette is equipped with an “Angel Eye,” a special camera that gives Brian and other families an opportunity to see Jag online. The family has labeled the 8 o’clock hour in the evening as “Jag Time.”

Brian and Kelsey are appreciative of their family and friends as well as their church – First Baptist Church of Wooster – for their help and support during the 60-plus day hospital stay. “We have some wonderful neighbors. The Greenbrier community has really reached out and helped us tremendously. We are so beyond grateful,” she said.

Brian and Kelsey were asked by the March of Dimes if they would share “Jag’s Journey” with others by allowing staff to share his milestones with others at UAMS and through social media. They are happy to share Jag’s story with others.

Jag continues to grow and develop in the NICU. On Sept 28, because of his improvements, Jag hit another milestone – he could be dressed in his own clothes. “So far, the doctors say they are so impressed with him and how he’s doing,” mom said.

The next step will be moving him to the Stork’s Nest, which will offer a little more comfort for his parents. At press time, he weighed nearly 4 pounds and was 15 inches long. “He’s gaining every day.”

While not the way they had planned to start their family, the couple realizes that their situation could be worse. Some families are from other states.

Another mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness before delivering her baby. “We’re actually pretty lucky,” Brian said. Kelsey added, “It hits us every day it could always be worse. The nurses and doctors are absolutely amazing. We could not be in a better place. This NICU is phenomenal.”

Kelsey said they anticipate that Jag will remain in the hospital at least until his original due date on Nov. 5. His heart and lungs are doing well, although his respiratory system is not as mature as doctors would like. “Everything looks good,” Kelsey said. Brian added “Basically, he just needs to grow.”