Born at 27 weeks: Science said he would die; faith said he would live

They were told to prepare for him to die within 72 hours. Now he’s thriving. His name means “gift of God” and his family says their miracle baby, Nathaniel, lives up to his name. He was supposed to be born January 26, but he arrived suddenly early in the third trimester. And due to complications, he was expected to die. But his parents believed then what they see now: that Nathaniel would live.

Stephanie and Gregory Palmer stood on their faith in God and never stopped believing their son would thrive and go home to join his siblings, ages eight, six and 18 months.


Nathaniel’s miracle story began at 25 weeks gestation, when he abruptly stopped moving in the womb. His  kicks grew weak, Stephanie says. Her tendency to worry, coupled with the baby’s strong heartbeat meant that her concerns were not taken seriously right away, but on November 2, when Nathaniel had not moved for over 24 hours, Stephanie was sent for a biophysical profile (BPP), and Nathaniel failed two out of 10 indicators. Stephanie says:

He didn’t move, [had] bad muscle tone, and was not practic[ing] breathing. What could cause a baby in utero to have a strong heart beat but refuse to move? I thought he must have been paralyzed or brain dead.

I was sent to labor and delivery to be checked and within minutes they realized he was very sick, getting reduced amounts of oxygen and needed to be delivered via emergency c-section immediately.

Her son had released muconium in his amniotic fluid. She says:

He was limp, blue and unresponsive at birth. He had to be resuscitated, he started swelling, and had to have oxygen pumped into his lungs by hand as he could not handle the ventilator. He needed to be air flighted to a nearby hospital with a NICU and an oscillator. The transport team warned us that he may not make the trip.

Nathaniel went directly from his place of birth at Guadalupe Regional Medical Center to a flight to Methodist Children’s Hospital of South Texas in San Antonio. He was diagnosed with non-immune Hydrops, which only one in five babies survive because of the edema (swelling), brain bleeds, lung disease, and organ failure, she says.

And though he was born at  27 weeks and  six days, which was somewhat promising for a preemie, Stephanie says:

Nathaniel’s brain began to bleed, his weight increased from 1130 grams to 1600 grams due to edema; his veins were porous and his body could not clot his blood. His brain ventricles also began to swell with cerebral spinal fluid. He was placed on an oscillator to help him breathe and it was clear that all his other organs had been damaged. The doctor did not expect him to live. We were told to ready ourselves.

It would be longer before she even met Nathaniel face-to-face:

The first time I saw my son was well into his second day of life after being released early from my hospital. His body was severely swollen with edema and his skin was dark red and black from bruising and a lack of oxygen to the skin. Edema began to pour around his lungs and heart. He had stage four brain bleeds which we were told would cause brain damage. His ventricles swelled with cerebral spinal fluid which might result in brain surgery to place a shunt!   The doctor said the edema would not lessen; it would continue to pour around the lungs and heart and cause pressure and his organs would fail and he could die. He could just not come back from this!

IMG_1363But their faith became the rock on which they stood. Their church prayed diligently. Stephanie says, “We knew that healing was ours to claim over his life because of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. We knew what could happen but we stood in faith that ‘could’ve’s,’ ‘should’ve’s’ and ‘what ifs’ would not help Nathaniel. We needed to believe in what we did not see. We simply needed to be patient and wait to see healing manifest in the flesh. Then miraculous things began to happen!”

Baby Nathaniel’s personal prayer force came with his own hashtag:  #NathanielWillThrive. Later it morphed to #NathanielThrive. And that he did. As they continued in prayer and faith, Stephanie says:

Nathaniel began to urinate more and more, which lessened the edema. Blood began to flow properly throughout his body, giving oxygen to the rest of his body… his organs began to heal. His blood began to clot, and the bleed[ing] in his brain stopped [worsening] and his ventricles stopped swelling!

This even surprised his doctor, she says, “The neurologist says she’s surprised at how well he looks with the amount of blood that had poured into his brain tissue.”

But their next joy was in something few think of as joy. Stephanie says, excitedly: “Then he pooped, declaring that his intestines worked!”

As Nathaniel’s skin color changed as oxygen reached him, he was moved from an oscillator to a ventilator to a ram cannula (a noninvasive nasal ventilation unit) and began weaning it, moving him to a high flow cannula. Adding to his ability to thrive was his nutrition, Stephanie says, “He receives breast milk with added fat to help him gain good weight again.” And he did so well that they were able to turn the heater off in his incubator even before he reached the weight they recommend because he was able to maintain his body temperature. Nathaniel was, indeed, thriving.

By December, just a month after he was born, Nathaniel was making great strides, and it became more about waiting than worrying. He made consistent gains in his breathing, his weight, all of his development.

After all he’s been through, Nathaniel did suffer some problems. Stephanie notes that he has some brain damage from his stage four brain bleeds, “but the neurologist is pleasantly surprised at his motor functions (moves his arms and legs, attempts to hold up his head, makes faces, responds to touch, follows you with his eyes, etc).” She adds that his lungs had no surfactant. He has respiratory distress syndrome and chronic lung disease. And yet he lives. She added late last week:
He was supposed to go home yesterday but he failed the oxygen removal trial on Thursday, and yesterday he ripped the oxygen off his face and breastfed for 44 minutes without a single bradycardia episode or oxygen desaturation.
Currently, Stephanie says Nathaniel is “in the process of coming home on oxygen [this week]… but only on 1/8th of a liter flow and 30% oxygen saturation.” And whether it’s with oxygen or he is released from it, she says, “I’m just excited to have my baby home and hold and cuddle him anytime I want!”

Stephanie’s faith also informs her pro-life views, and her story has only strengthened that. She says:

I’m pro-life no matter what. I always strongly believed that every child is created on purpose for a purpose. That even those born in difficult circumstances are destined to be here and they are the brightness in a dark situation. Nathaniel only proved to me further that abortion is murder. He was born at 27.6 weeks and had a complete body. He would have been doing great if he had not been born with non-immune Hydrops  but here he is at 40 weeks 5 days [January 30] gestation and he’s thriving and plumping up! He is indeed destined for greatness beyond my comprehension!

Nathaniel’s dad, Gregory, says:
[In the natural] the odds were against him. There was no way of knowing that God would intervene. The doctor saw death but he still did what he could to save him. He couldn’t know God’s plan or the amount of people uniting in prayer for him. Really I don’t think anybody thought he would survive besides me in the beginning.
Nathaniel has become a living testimony of life to his family and many others. Stephanie says:
He was never meant to live [according to the]thought of men… he shouldn’t be here. But he is! He has organ damage but no organ failure. No surgeries. God is so very great indeed.
Baby Nathaniel continues to thrive and the Palmer family is praising the Lord for giving life to their son and brother.
Baby Nathaniel, January 28, 2016

Baby Nathaniel, January 28, 2016

You can see their entire story from beginning until current time via Facebook, and searching the hashtags #NathanielWillThrive and #NathanielThrives

Nathaniel’s parents and siblings.

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