Myisha Millsap was looking forward to the birth of her baby in July 2008

April 03, 2014

“I had come home and was getting ready to go out to the movies,” Myisha said. “The next thing I knew, my water broke. I panicked. I went to the hospital and they put me on complete bed rest. I ended up giving birth to my daughter Kamil two weeks later. She was born at 25 weeks and she weighed only one pound and 10 ounces.”

 As it turns out, the extra two weeks that Kamil was able to stay safely in the womb to develop probably meant the difference between her surviving or not. Jon Yamamoto, MD, Medical Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance explained why those weeks are so critical.

“At that age, babies are at the steepest part of the survival curve,” Dr. Yamamoto said. “When you consider that a baby born at 21 or 22 weeks has between a one and five percent chance of survival and a baby born at 27 weeks has an 80 to 90 percent chance of survival, you can grasp the magnitude of that five or six week period of time. Every day we can give that baby to develop in utero, the better its chances of surviving and thriving.”

For babies like Kamil, their first home is the NICU—a place where premature infants receive round-the-clock care and attention to their very specific needs. “Kamil went directly into the NICU and stayed there for three-and-a-half months,” Myisha said. “Except for a few minutes when I was discharged, I didn’t get to hold her for two months. I was there every single day and I think I cried every single day of those two months.”

The first problem Kamil faced was with oxygen intake. “For the first three weeks she was really up and down with her ability to get enough oxygen,” Myisha said. “Her lungs weren’t fully developed and it was hard for her to breathe on her own.”

Another problem Kamil experienced, as do many infants born this prematurely, was that one of the blood vessels leading to her heart didn’t fully close. Often this condition is treated with medication, but the younger the baby’s gestational age, the less likely the medication is to work.

“We tried three courses of the medication and each time the vessel would close and then reopen,” Myisha said. “She needed to have an operation to close it off for good.”

Kamil underwent a surgery called ligation of the ductus arteriosus. “This is the blood vessel that connects the pulmonary artery to the aorta,” Dr. Yamamoto said. “All babies are born with the vessel open. In full term babies, the vessel closes off easily all by itself. However, the more premature the baby is the more difficult it is to close. Sometimes we can close it using medication, but often we have to surgically close it off by either clamping or suturing the vessel.”

“It was heartbreaking to see this tiny baby—my tiny baby—having to go through all these procedures,” Myisha said. “But I knew Kamil was in the best possible hands and everyone in the NICU helped me through these really difficult times. I was so grateful to have such wonderful people caring for my daughter—and me.”

Kamil left the NICU in July, the same month that should have been her birthday. Today, she is a vibrant, happy toddler who is walking and talking right on schedule. Not all infants born this prematurely are as lucky.

Since Kamil’s birth last year, she and her family moved to Oklahoma when the Air Force transferred Myisha there. On a recent trip back to California, however, Myisha stopped by the NICU to visit and talk with another family whose baby was also born at 25 weeks. The family was relieved to hear Myisha and Kamil’s success story. And Myisha was happy to share her experience, since she knows exactly what this family is going through. “It is certainly my pleasure to help out another family in the same place I was at not so long ago,” she said. “I know there is no better place for their baby than here.”

Myisha isn’t the only one helping. Through the help of philanthropy, families will soon benefit from a brand new single family room NICU – the first of its kind in Los Angeles.

“The most meaningful definition of philanthropy for me is ‘friend of people.’ What better friendship can you offer than giving to our community medical center?” said Chris W. Caras, Providence Little Company of Mary benefactor and trustee alumnus. “It is quite an accomplishment to be opening the first NICU in Los Angeles to offer private rooms for the babies.”

Recent studies have shown that premature babies do better and grow faster when they have their own space. The private rooms in our new NICU will provide a home-like environment where families can bond with their babies, day and night, to promote health and growth.

For Kamil and her family, their story has a happy ending. With the new state-of-the-art NICU at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance, we’ll help ensure that many more premature babies and their families will have happy endings of their own.

For more information about partnering with Providence Little Company of Mary Foundation in support of the NICU.