NEW ORLEANS, La. - As many families reflect on their blessings this Christmas, one from Vacherie is extra thankful this holiday. For several weeks, their newborn has been in intensive care at Children's Hospital.
There are about 18 babies in the NICU fighting their own fight, including one three-week-old, who almost didn't make it through the delivery.
"He's definitely a strong, little man," said his mother, Britney Schexnayder.
Wrapped tightly in a blanket, three-week-old River has had a tough start to life.
"It's been rough," said Schexnayder. "When we first got here he was on oscillating ventilation for two days, ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) for eight days, a ventilator for an additional five days, and now it's the oxygen."
The complications began during delivery, when Britney's uterus ruptured. It's an uncommon and serious situation that had both mom and baby fighting to live.
"I came out of recovery asking where he was, what was going on with him and I was told he was being sent to Children's because he was having trouble breathing," she said.
Upon arrival, LSU Health Neonatologist Brian Barkemeyer, says River was very sick and near death.
"The baby was left without oxygen for a period of time for this birth," he said. "He ended up in a therapy called ECMO, which is a heart and lung bypass machine which he was on for eight days. ECMO involves one of our surgical specialists here, placing large catheters into some large blood vessels, and takes blood from River's body, sends it to a machine where it picks up oxygen and then goes back into his body. His lungs were not working well enough to do that on their own."
Each day though, River fights and improves.
"He's now breathing on his own, he's able to feed not by mouth yet, but by the tube in his stomach," Barkemeyer said. "Christmas is a story of life and hope and we hope for this family there's a good outcome."
Britney says getting to this point has been hard and filled with uncertainty. She also remembers the first time she saw her son at Children's.
"It was horrible," she remembers. "I was rolled in a wheelchair because I was still recovering myself. And to see him hooked up to the machines, I can't even describe it. It was rough, very hard to see him like that. He was 18-days-old before we got to hold him. It was something I'd been waiting for."
So on this Christmas, mom and dad are holding their son close, hopeful he'll keep fighting.
"He's come so far in such a short amount of time," Britney said. "I'm just ready to go home. I'm ready for his sister to hold him and ready to be back to normal. But it'll come when he's ready."
Doctors say River heading home depends on several factors, including eating on his own. That can be a process, but one his parents are optimistic about.