Health & Fitness

Advocates for babies

In the days before Kingston Goos’ birth in the early morning of Nov. 17, 2009, at Wesley Medical Center, his parents had gone from celebrating a milestone to desperately trying to reach one that would mean their baby had a chance to survive.

Only four days before, Megheen Goos, a former professional soccer player and fifth-grade teacher in her 23rd week of pregnancy, had been elated to feel her baby kick. She called for her husband, Clint, to come up from the basement of their house to feel her stomach.

“We were really excited,” said Megheen.

The next day — after Megheen’s water broke way too soon in her pregnancy — they were at Wesley Medical Center, listening to specialists tell her that if she couldn’t carry the baby to the 24th week, it wouldn’t be considered viable.

Viability, the ability of a fetus to survive outside the womb, usually occurs at the 24th week, according to medical experts. And even then, the chances of survival are low, and the chances of a surviving baby having lifelong complications or special needs are high. Doctors told the Gooses that if their baby was born before Megheen could reach that milestone, all they could do is provide compassionate care.

Fewer than 1 percent of babies in the U.S. are born before 28 weeks of pregnancy and they are at risk for the most complications, according to the March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization founded in 1938 that provides research and education on preconception health, pregnancy and newborn care.

“They told us that no matter all the research and technology that’s available, mom is the best” for a baby’s survival, Clint said. The Wichita couple chose to go home, with orders that Megheen be on bed rest and drink as much water as she could to help replace the fluid that had been lost.

After about 20 weeks of pregnancy, a baby’s urine makes up most of the amniotic fluid, according to the March of Dimes. Through drinking lots of water, Megheen was helping her baby produce urine to replace the amniotic fluid.

Born too soon

Days later, the Gooses were back at Wesley. Megheen had gone into labor.

Clint recalls clearly the flurry of activity that was happening in the room, even re-enacting his frantic pace after scooping the baby up after being born and his gestures to doctors to save his son.

As doctors and nurses were gathered in the room, trying to stop her labor, Megheen said she needed to go to the bathroom. It was then that she realized her baby was coming. She remembered that doctors had told her to hang on until her 24th week — a milestone she’d reach in just a few days on a Thursday — or her baby wouldn’t have a chance.

“I grabbed the rail and knew it wasn’t Thursday and we wouldn’t have a baby,” Megheen said.

But thanks to the efforts of the doctors and nurses at the neonatal unit, treatments for premature babies and speech, physical and occupational therapies, the Gooses’ 1-pound, 4.9-ounce baby is now a fairly healthy 22-pound 2-year-old who loves singing and hugging his 3-month-old brother, Leyton.

Clint, too, remembered the doctors’ words about the baby’s viability. But when physician Talkad Raghuveer asked him if he wanted him to save his son, Clint shouted yes. When he scooped up the baby after Megheen delivered, he heard his son give two little cries.

“To me, that was incredible because we didn’t know if he’d even be alive. And to hear him whimper like that” gave the couple hope, Clint said.

Kingston spent 95 days in Wesley’s neonatal intensive care unit. Megheen spent long hours each day at the hospital, often reading material in a resource and respite room set up for NICU parents. The March of Dimes provides much of the educational material in the room.

The Gooses also found out that research funded by the March of Dimes had helped create the surfactant treatment that their son was receiving. Surfactant is a detergent-like substance produced in the lungs that aids in breathing. Since surfactant therapy became widespread, deaths due to respiratory distress syndrome have decreased by two-thirds, according to the March of Dimes.

Becoming advocates

As the Gooses bonded with nurses and other NICU parents — with many becoming close friends — they saw a need for helping organizations that provide services for parents and children with special needs.

They’re putting together a team of family and friends, including some of Wesley’s NICU nurses, to participate in two upcoming March for Babies fundraising walks sponsored by the March of Dimes. Their team name reflects their oldest son’s name, Kingston Oliver — Team K.O. — and their logo is a pair of boxing gloves.

With her interest in education, Megheen volunteers for Child Start, which provides Head Start services, a federally funded program that provides educational programs to at-risk preschool children.

Clint, a lawyer with Morris Laing who grew up on a small farm near Tonganoxie, also is on the board of the Flint Hills Therapeutic Riding Center, which provides equine therapy for people with disabilities.

When the Gooses considered having a second child, they said information provided by the March of Dimes helped them decide to try again.

“We wanted to have more kids, but we didn’t want to go through what we had with Kingston,” Megheen said. Weekly progesterone shots — which helped strengthen her uterine walls — helped Megheen carry their second baby to full term.

While Kingston’s early days were filled with concerns about his health, the Gooses recently received some good news after a recent therapy session with Rainbows United, a local organization that provides services for children with special needs. While Kingston is hitting some developmental milestones at a later date, he’s on track to being a healthy child with normal cognitive abilities.

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