May 6, 2024, 12:48:30 AM CDT May 6, 2024, 1:04:15 AM CDT

Emberlyn's story: Breathing easier with a new level of care

When no one could figure out why Emberlyn stopped breathing, her great aunt recommended Children's Health. That's where they finally found the answers – and the care – Emberlyn needed.

Emberlyn sitting in a swingset at the park. Emberlyn sitting in a swingset at the park.

When Morgan and Brooke's first baby Emberlyn was born early at just 33 weeks, they were ecstatic that she was eating and breathing well enough that they could leave the hospital after only two and half weeks. That was a huge success for a 4-pound "preemie."

At home, her parents tried to do everything to protect Emberlyn's delicate immune system – including disinfecting every room in their home, as the nurses advised. They expected they would need to take extra care of tiny Emberlyn until she got stronger.

They didn't expect Emberlyn to suddenly stop breathing. And not just once, but three different times, over the course of her first few weeks at home.

This incident would lead the young family on a journey to find the care Emberlyn needed – and a care team who could understand her unique circumstances.

A terrifying incident at home

The first time Emberlyn stopped breathing one night in December of 2022, "We were completely caught off guard," recalls Morgan. Their newborn had shown some cold-like symptoms in previous days, but nothing more drastic than a cough and swollen eyes

"I first thought she was choking because she had acid reflux. So I tried to suck whatever she might have in her mouth. But there was nothing in her mouth," said Brooke.

Emberlyn in the hospital laying in the bed.Panicked, Morgan began to give Emberlyn CPR and Brooke called 911. CPR revived Emberlyn, who started to cry. The paramedics arrived shortly after and Emberlyn was life-flighted to the nearest NICU in Shreveport, Louisiana, about an hour from Morgan and Brooke's home in the small town of Hughes Springs, Texas.

The NICU care team ran tests and diagnosed Emberlyn with parainfluenza, a type of respiratory virus, and croup (the swelling of the airway that leads to a barky cough). She stayed in the NICU for four days before being released. The same thing happened the very next night, but this time, they drove Emberlyn to their local hospital.

Watching doctors hook tiny Emberlyn up to a ventilator machine, connected via "tubes that were almost bigger than her head," was a terrifying moment for her parents.

That's when Emberlyn's beloved great aunt Tricia stepped in to recommend Children's Health℠.

"She works there so she's very aware of the kind of specialized care they have, especially for young babies," said Brooke. "She pushed to get Emberlyn transferred to Children's Health so we could get better answers."

A new level of care at Children's Health

Just hours after Brooke and Morgan walked into the Children's Health Level IV NICU in Dallas, they went from wondering if Emberlyn was going to make it to feeling confident she'd survive.

The Children's Health care team quickly uncovered what was causing Emberlyn's repeated episodes of apnea (the medical term when someone stops breathing). Emberlyn did have parainfluenza, or "paraflu," but she also had two collapsed lobes in her right lung and anemia (not enough red blood cells). This "perfect storm" of conditions meant she wasn't getting oxygen to the parts of her body that really needed it – her brain, heart and lungs.

Doctors told Morgan and Brooke that Emberlyn was in respiratory failure and needed a ventilator to ever-so-gently "pop" open her collapsed lung. They also said the best way to improve the delivery of oxygen throughout Emberlyn's body was for her to have a blood transfusion.

Christmas family photo.The care team spoke confidently to them about getting to the bottom of Emberlyn's apnea. As 18- and 19-year-old parents, Morgan and Brooke were grateful that the doctors took the time to explain everything.

"At Children's Health, I never felt like I was too young to be in the room. They included us in everything," said Brooke.

An instant improvement and a clear path to recovery

Sushmita Yallapragada, M.D., Neonatologist and Medical Director at the Children's Health NICU; and Associate Professor at UT Southwestern, knows it can be terrifying for any parent to hear their child needs a blood transfusion. But it can also be the procedure that can turn a child's health around.

Emberlyn as a newborn being swaddled.After the transfusion, Emberlyn's demeanor immediately improved. "You could tell that she had a little extra something. Her coloring was better, she was starting to giggle and smile more and grab our fingers," said Morgan.

Great aunt Tricia, who was watching Emberlyn via the NICU's live stream camera, felt pure relief witnessing Emberlyn's transformation. "It was so comforting for Brooke and Morgan to finally be in the hands of professionals who could step into action quickly and change the course of things," says Tricia.

It was so comforting for Brooke and Morgan to finally be in the hands of professionals who could step into action quickly and change the course of things.
Tricia, patient aunt

As Emberlyn got stronger day by day, Morgan and Brooke continued to be amazed by her resiliency. Within just a few days, she was able to eat enough on her own and breathe without the support of the ventilator.

Morgan and Brooke were in awe of their multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses and therapists who gave them exceptional, personalized, comprehensive care. "The music therapists played guitar music for Emberlyn," recalls Morgan. "And the nurses treated all the kids in the NICU like their own. We could feel that just watching them pick up and hold the babies."

Focused on raising a healthy, happy baby

At 18 months old, Emberlyn is now perfectly healthy and "full of attitude," in her mother's words. Her big, expressive blue eyes look like she's ready to take on the world.

Emberlyn looking at the camera while at the grocery store.Brooke describes her as hilarious, fun and super interactive. "She loves to be talked to and will talk your ear off with her responses. She also loves music and is learning sign language," she said.

  1. Babies who are born early can be miraculously strong; and
  2. Children's Health helped them put this terrifying chapter behind them, so they could focus on raising a healthy, happy baby.

"I don't know what we would have done without Children's Health. I didn't know anything about it before we needed it. And now, I recommend it to everyone," said Morgan.

Learn more

The Neonatal-Perinatal experts at Children's Health provide comprehensive care for a wide variety of neonatal conditions and are dedicated to improving outcomes for the tiniest of patients. Learn more about our top-ranking Neonatology program.

Screen capture of family newsletter signup

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the Children's Health Family Newsletter.

Children's Health will not sell, share or rent your information to third parties. Please read our privacy policy.

Children's Health Family Newsletter

Get health tips and parenting advice from Children's Health experts sent straight to your inbox twice a month.

patient story, NICU, infant, neonatology, newborn, treatment

Childrens Health