A preemie who weighed just one pound six ounces at birth has finally been able to go home with his parents, after 181 days in the hospital.
When little Zaylan Reed was born, doctors told his parents, Krysten Risbon and Janerio Reed, their son “probably wouldn’t make it.”
Krysten, of Altoona, Pennsylvania, was just 23 weeks and six days pregnant when she started experiencing pain and bleeding. Doctors first believed she was suffering from a yeast infection, but later determined she was actually in labor. “They said – ‘You’re going to have this baby today. He’s probably not going to make it.’ I started crying,” she recalled.
Krysten was airlifted to UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, which has a specialist neonatal unit. “It was scary. I just kept thinking ‘Please just get us there,'” she said. “Nobody could come with me. I just felt like everything was going to be ok.”
When Zaylan was born, he had a hole in his heart and an eye condition called ROP. After Janerio cut his son’s umbilical cord, Zaylan was whisked away to the NICU. “When they took him down I was pretty scared. He was so tiny he fit in the palm of my hand,” said Krysten.
Over the next few months, Zaylan was put on oxygen, had surgery to improve his eyesight, and was eventually fitted with a feeding tube. On June 21, after nearly six months in the hospital, he was finally able to go home with his parents. Krysten said it was “unreal having him home.”
“It’s pretty insane. I can’t believe how small he was. He used to hold my finger with his whole hand,” she said. “He used to be the size of a thumbprint of his foot.”
He hasn’t just grown in size — he’s also started to show his own personality. “He’s pretty funny. He’s a grump – he gives me the side eye,” Krysten said. “He smiles and laughs all the time.”
The survival rate a preemie like Zaylan is continuing to rise, thanks to an increase in medical advancements. A 2022 study by Stanford Medicine found that with active treatment, 55 percent of babies born at 23 weeks, like Zaylan, survived. Being a preemie no longer has to mean an immediate death sentence.
The arrival of Zaylan isn’t the only big change in the family’s life, as Krysten is also preparing to enter Mount Aloysius College in the fall to study nursing.