Casper Blaise Lewis, born at 26 weeks

Casper Blaise Lewis, born at 26 weeks

WATERLOO — Casper Lewis and his family will celebrate his birth again on New Year’s Eve.

Casper was expected on Dec. 31, but instead was born on Sept. 26 — three months early and weighing only 1½ pounds.

Not only did he survive such a premature birth, but Casper became well enough to leave hospital early to join his parents and two older siblings in their Waterloo home for Christmas.

“He was a total miracle from the start,” said his mother Amy Lewis.

Amy and William Lewis couldn’t believe it when they first glimpsed their baby.

He was small enough to easily fit on the palm of a hand, his skin thin and translucent. His first cry was practically a whisper.

“When he came out, I didn’t think he was alive,” William said. “He didn’t really look like a baby.”

Amy’s pregnancy was going well until her water broke long before her due date, prompting an immediate visit to Grand River Hospital’s emergency department.

Soon they were on their way to Hamilton for more specialized care at McMaster Children’s Hospital. There, doctors worked to keep Casper inside for as long as possible to give him the best chance for a healthy start.

They were able to stop Amy’s contractions, but a serious infection made Casper’s delivery a necessity. Quickly he was bundled up and whisked away to an incubator, but only after a kiss from his mother.

Finally seeing her baby was a relief after four anxious days in hospital uncertain what would happen.

“He was just so tiny and it was so amazing to see him,” Amy said.

But Casper still needed a lot of care after his tentative start. Blood transfusions bolstered his little body and treatments helped his jaundice, anemia and bowel infection. A special apnea machine kept him breathing.

Yet doctors were optimistic, telling Casper’s parents any problems usually appear early in preemies. Relatively few complications emerged as Casper strengthened in the neonatal intensive-care unit.

“Thankfully we never had any emergency phone calls,” Amy said.

Waiting for Casper to come home was tough on the whole family, trying to balance the long drive to Hamilton with keeping life as normal as possible for Anastasia, 6, and Ephraim, 5.

“I felt the whole time a piece of me was somewhere else,” Amy said.

Finally, after more than 10 weeks in hospital, the last two in Kitchener, Casper came home to his family in early December. He weighed about four pounds and is now just over five.

His feeding is helped by an occupational therapist and special formula needed because of a severe allergy discovered in hospital.

Regular tests and checkups follow his development and look for any potential problems common among premature babies, such as vision impairment.

Casper is more interesting to his older brother and sister now that he’s a bit more aware and sleeping a bit less. The family plans to celebrate the new year and Casper’s birthday together.

“I’m thinking birthday cake,” William said.

Although Casper is already more than three months old, Dec. 31 will be counted as his birthday when marking his developmental milestones.

Every day since his early birth is amazing to his mother.

“It’s been quite incredible watching him do so well.”