It's a moment many couples dream of... finding out they are pregnant. But for some, the initial exhilaration turns into absolute fear as they discover their unborn child suffers from some abnormality, or perhaps the mother herself is having complications.
Not long ago, the growing number of Valley mothers suffering from high-risk pregnancies had to travel long distances to get the care they needed. Today, the perinatology department at Children's Hospital Central California in Madera County is growing at an incredible rate and Valley families are benefitting from the care it provides.
CBS47's Evy Ramos spent time with one Valley family, grateful for the care and treatment they received from Children's Hospital for their son, Ben. Ben was born at just 26 weeks. Weighing only 2 pounds, he will spend the next couple months in the NICU.
Ben's parents, Jonas and Kelly Gosschalk, spend nearly every waking moment next to their son. "You're sitting here looking at him and time can fly by quick just staring at him. What seems like a minute could be a couple hours and you look up and it's 10:30 and it's like, 'oh no, we still gotta go home'," said Jonas.
It's been a tough month for the couple, who up until December 17th, thought things were going relatively well with the pregnancy. That in itself seemed like a miracle, because Kelly was involved in a bad skiing accident as a young adult. "I was 21, which is the age I thought I just couldn't hurt myself. I was up at Sierra Summit, the old China Peak, and I just went off of a jump too fast and got too high," said Kelly.
Kelly fractured her vertebrae in the accident. "They told me I'd never walk again, which is something I couldn't really accept. It was really hard," said Kelly.
After years of hard work and therapy, Kelly was free of the wheelchair. Soon after, she was walking on her own with leg braces. Because of some small complications she still has from that accident, Kelly's OB-GYN closely monitored her pregnancy and everything was looking good. After a routine check-up with Doctor Beni Adeniji at Children's Hospital Central California, things began to change. "Unfortunately, she walked in, the sky was blue, life was perfect, and everything was great. She finished seeing us and we turned her world upside down. We detected funneling. That's the term we give to the cervix when it starts to shorten from the inside out," said Dr. Adeniji.
Kelly would have to immediately be admitted to the hospital and put on bed rest. Because of already having an injury and being stuck and not mobile and losing your independence... I knew it was going to be hard," said Kelly.
The goal was to keep baby Ben, who was only 23 weeks at the time, inside the womb as long as possible. "At that age, every week is huge. Every week is the difference between living and not living," said Dr. Adeniji.
A few weeks later, Ben was born at exactly 26 weeks. "In the hands of our neonatologists here, most of those 26 weekers live. So our debate at this point is no longer, is it going to live or not, it is... We want intact survival. We want quality of life. We want this individual to live a full productive, happy life," said Dr. Adeniji.
The early discovery of complications and weeks on bed rest in the hospital saved baby Ben's life. "The difference between a 23 weeker who you really don't expect to live and a 26 weeker who we now, absolutely, expect to live is that stark, in terms of the difference," said Dr. Adeniji.
But the worry now continues as baby Ben is still very young and delicate. "The hardest part is not being able to be his mom. Not getting to do all those routine things. To hold him all the time. We go home at night and he's not with you, it's just really hard," said Kelly.
The Gosschalk's story is one that many Valley families share. It was a high-risk pregnancies that once required the care of a facility outside of the Central Valley, either San Francisco or Las Angeles. That was the case until Children's Hospital Central California opened up a perinatology department 2 1/2 years ago.
Doctor Armando Fuentes is the head of the perinatology department. "It has exceeded everybody's expectations... even my own," said Dr. Fuentes.
Starting with 40 patients a month, the department is now seeing 640 patients a month! The services the doctors provide these women and children are incredible.
Dr. Fuentes said, "We do some invasive therapy for babies. We can transfuse babies inside the uterus if they're very anemic. If there are sometimes babies that are not able to urinate inside the uterus because they may have a blockage, we're able to put in through ultrasound guidance a tube, into their bladder and urine can go outside and they don't suffer any problems, any long term problems."
Perhaps most importantly, women are also able to stay closer to home in the case of an emergency. "There are times when women do need to be hospitalized for prolonged periods while their pregnant. Now the fact that this is the mother of the home, and the primary care giver for children and husband and everybody looking to them. Extricating that woman from that home is not just of implication to her, it's to everybody else who depends on her," said Dr. Adeniji.
The Gosschalk's are very grateful for the care they had during Kelly's pregnancy and the care they continue to receive. "We just are very thankful to have this resource nearby. I mean, it's top notch. We couldn't ask for better support," said Kelly.
Jonas and Kelly are now looking forward to the future with their son, Ben. "He's going to continue getting bigger, he's going to continue getting stronger, and then he'll leave here and continue growing. And then maybe he'll have a sister or a brother to play with several years down the road," said Jonas.