One little miracle: Preemie who beat the odds has big birthday

by Janna Virden

It was more than just a day of celebration for Dennie Joe (D.J.) Lynch’s first birthday party Sept. 15 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Morrilton. It was the celebration of the fight for life that D.J. and his family have gone through for the past year.

Family and friends who had witnessed the struggle of D.J., his young parents, Daniel and Haley Lynch, and their extended families for the past year had come to celebrate the milestone of D.J.’s first birthday. A large crowd sang loudly, “Happy Birthday” as all 19 pounds of D.J. grinned and tore into his little green and yellow birthday cake unaware that some eyes glistened with tears of joy.

Born Sept. 18, 2012, at 23-and-a-half weeks gestation and weighing just 1 pound and 9 ounces, D.J. was in for a battle just to live. D.J. was delivered by cesarean section at Conway Regional Medical Center after his mother had gone into premature labor.

He was then med-flighted by Angel One to Arkansas Children’s Hospital where he was to spend the next three months growing and fighting to live.

“I was scared I was going to lose him,” Daniel said. “I had never heard of anybody having a baby that early.” D.J.’s parents were told he had only a 50/50 chance of survival.

His whole extended family went into crisis mode. Traveling back and forth from Conway County to Arkansas Children’s each day became a way of life for his parents and grandparents.

“It was hard being a young parent,” Haley said. “Just not knowing what was going to happen each day.”

Together the family had their own struggles to bear as well as witnessing the struggles of other families.

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) became part of their lives. They felt the heartbreak as other families tragically lost their babies. But day by day, D. J. grew. He beat the odds.

Even though he still sees a physical therapist to work on fine motor skills and a nurse checks in once a week, Haley said D.J. is right on schedule for his birth date level (8 months), which was projected to be in January.

“D. J. is a happy baby and crawls everywhere,” Haley said. “He’s wild.” She said he loves just to look at everything and is already starting to say a few words.

“I see big changes in him when I come home,” said Daniel, who works out-of-town for extended periods of time. “He’s done better than I ever thought. He just hits the floor and goes.”

Daniel said that he believes God has taken care of his baby boy. Daniel’s birthday wish for his son: “That he doesn’t have any problems, and that everything stays good for him.” So far, that wish is coming true.