TEMPLE, Texas (KXAN) — Since his birth in May, the only home Liam Gutierrez has known is Baylor, Scott and White’s McLane Children’s neonatal intensive care unit.
Shaniqua and Fernando Gutierrez waited seven months to bring their infant son home. This week, the long-awaited trip home finally came.
Liam was born three months premature. His identical twin brother, Leo, died five days after he was born. The family and healthcare workers did not expect Liam, the smaller and sicker brother, to survive either.
“It’s been very tough going,” said Dr. Greg Miller, a neonatologist at McLane Children’s. “Liam is a very lucky little boy both in terms of how he’s done medically and in terms of the family he’s coming home to.”
The level-four NICU facility takes the sickest of the sickest babies and can perform every surgery, except those aimed at treating heart diseases in babies.
“We thought they were both going to make it; and, unfortunately, the one boy did not,” Miller said.”He had a horrible event one evening and we simply couldn’t get him back.” The cause of Leo’s death is still a mystery.
As the months passed, Liam experienced complications with his lungs and intestines. Doctors and nurses worked around the clock.
His parents racked up miles on their car visiting him every day. It wasn’t easy, said Shaniqua Gutierrez, who stopped working to care for her baby. “I’d drive from Killeen to Temple to take care of Liam for a few hours; and, then drive to pick up my daughter and go back home,” Gutierrez said.
But, Liam’s health improved. He continued to get bigger and stronger, thanks to feeding and oxygen tubes. After seven months, his parents packed up his belongings but they still couldn’t actually drive him home. Medics loaded Liam into an ambulance and drove him home to Killeen.
He will be with family this holiday. And, the feeding and oxygen tubes may be gone soon.
“It’s a blessing that he can go home,” said Miller. “It looks to me like he’s going to be able, at some point, to digest and absorb all of the food he needs.”