Newborn baby via Unsplash.

Parents Carolina Gonzalez and Michael MacDougal took their baby daughter Jo home in time for Christmas this year. The infant was born at 23 weeks’ gestation and spent months at the St. Francis Health System in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She had not been expected to survive.

Gonzalez, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at 19, did not expect to be able to have children. One ovary was removed, and some of her eggs sustained damage during treatment. Even though she was still able to carry a pregnancy, she was no longer able to conceive on her own. The couple became pregnant in 2021 with the help of fertility treatment.

In 2021, Gonzalez and her partner, Michael MacDougal, became pregnant through use of fertility treatments, and at first, things seemed to be progressing normally. “It was smooth sailing, I had no nausea,” Gonzalez said. “It was a pretty simple pregnancy.”

At 23 weeks, doctors found that baby Jo was not meeting growth requirements. Additionally, Gonzalez was diagnosed with preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome, a life threatening pregnancy complication related to preeclampsia. The baby was delivered early, weighing less than 12oz. She was expected to die soon after birth. Moved by the sound of baby Jo’s cries at birth, Dr. Rachel Everette, co-director of the Saint Francis Children’s Hospital NICU, decided to intervene.

Jo weighed less than 12oz — the same as a can of Coke — coming in at just 340 grams. Her eyes were fused shut, and according to the hospital’s survival calendar for premature babies, she couldn’t be saved. But her cries at birth were, according to Dr. Rachel Everette, the co-director of the Saint Francis Children’s Hospital NICU, all she needed to know. “That was actually my sign from the Lord that I need to try and do something,” Everette said.

During her five months in the NICU, baby Jo suffered a collapsed lung, but despite the long ordeal, Gonzalez and MacDougal celebrated Christmas at home with their daughter. She was released from the hospital in time for the Holiday.

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