When Karen Wollman took her two-and-half-month-old baby boy in her arms, she was sure this would be the last time she ever held him. But then, on the brink of tragedy, something amazing happened.
Karen and her husband Brian live in Sioux Falls, S.D. They already had two kids, Riley and Paisley, when they learned they were pregnant with a third: one that would have special needs.
A routine check-up showed that the developing fetus had Down syndrome. In a case of bad news getting worse, their baby-to-be also had a rare condition called hydrops fetalis.
There was a high chance that Wollman’s pregnancy would end in a miscarriage, or, if it came to full-term, the baby might be stillborn. The fetus’ heart was working overtime to deliver enough blood and oxygen to its organs, and as a secondary result was causing a build-up of fluids in its tissues.
“They told us that he was really likely to not be born alive,” Karen told People. “But my husband and I decided to keep hope. We didn’t get his nursery ready; that would have been too devastating.”
Karen, after, all just couldn’t imagine her son not surviving birth. “I remember standing at the window, envisioning Renner playing in the tree house with his brother and sister,” she said.
Indeed, the fetus continued growing and developing. But when Karen went in later for another check-up, the results of an echocardiogram shocked everyone in the room. The fetus’ heart had reached its limits and could no longer support the needs of its organs – they were failing. Something needed to be done immediately if the fetus was to survive.
Karen, then, was taken directly to the nearby Sanford University of South Dakota Medical Center – and, as soon as she arrived, she was given an emergency C-section. But her newborn baby boy Renner was going to need a lot of help.
Not only was Renner desperately ill, after all, but he was born weeks before his due date. He still, then, had a long battle ahead of him to survive.
Karen, though, was relieved that her new son had made it this far. “He took one breath of life, and that was really all we’d prayed for,” she explained to People. “We prayed that he’d be born alive so we could meet him.”
Brian Wollman, meanwhile, told People that Renner looked like a little teddy bear when he was born. “He had a whole head of black hair, a short stature and was swelled up,” he said.
After the delivery, Renner was whisked away to intensive care and put onto a series of machines to keep him alive. With his kidneys failing, the fragile baby endured an incredible 13 blood transfusions.
What’s more, Renner had to be kept in a dimly lit room, because too much light would raise his blood sugar. Dad and mom, though, were by his side, reading him stories, playing music and holding their infant’s hand whenever they could.
“Some days we were taking it minute by minute,” said Karen of that agonizing time. “It was pure agony to see him that sick. You feel helpless as a parent. But you have to find the good in each and every day.”
Unfortunately, and even with all the medical intervention, Renner’s internal organs deteriorated dramatically. Doctors had to induce a state of paralysis to keep the baby still and allow the machines to do the job of oxygenating his lungs for him. And though Renner had already reached two and a half months of age against the odds, the doctors told the family to sadly prepare for the worst.
Karen asked if she could bring a rocking chair to the intensive care room and cuddle her baby for the first and last time. She held him for nearly four hours – and it was then that a miracle occurred. Renner’s health took a sharp turn for the better.
Over the next few weeks and months, moreover, Renner continued to get stronger. His doctors, meanwhile, were pleasantly flabbergasted that the little guy had pulled through the worst.
And on January 11, 2013, more than six months after he was born, Renner was allowed to go home. The family, naturally, cherishes every minute they have with their determined-to-live little baby boy.
Renner is now aged four and doing incredibly well. He seems to hurdle all the obstacles in his way with great enthusiasm, as well as family and medical support.
It’s clear, then, that the little boy is a true fighter. Not only that, in fact, but he’s a credit to what is clearly a pair of loving and dedicated parents.