“Thankfulness” is the word Crystal Breitling has for the people involved in the successful delivery and care of her daughter, Melody, who was born at about 31 weeks and weighed 3 pounds.
The new chapter in Breitling’s life started Memorial Day 2018 as she was preparing her home for a party with family.
“I was standing at the kitchen counter chopping some vegetables and heard my water break,” Breitling said. “So, I ran into the bathroom and found that it was not amniotic fluid – it was blood.
“I called 9-1-1 and eventually I passed out,” she said. “I didn’t know how long it took them to get here and get me on the stretcher. They were having a little bit of an argument of where to take me. I was aware enough of the conversation to say ‘go to Waxahachie.’ ”
Breitling said she doesn’t remember much early on. The medical staff at Baylor Scott and White – Waxahachie performed an emergency C-section. Later, Breitling was told that Melody was born without a heartbeat and was without one for eight minutes.
“They had to do two surgeries that day and when they pulled me out of anesthesia I asked if my baby had died and they said, ‘No, she is OK.’ They had transferred her to Cook Children’s in Fort Worth,” Breitling said. “I was relieved that she was alive because I was still in pretty serious condition and was in the ICU. That evening I was [transported by air ambulance] to big Baylor’s, Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas’, ICU.”
Breitling said medical staff used around 31 units of blood as they worked to stop the bleeding from her body.
After a 12-day stay at the hospital, Breitling was released. It would be three months before Melody would come home from the hospital.
Breitling said the moment she got to see her daughter for the first time is something she will never forget.
“The day that I was released from the hospital, they pulled her belly button line so she was able to be held,” Breitling said. “It is incredible. There are no words. I could not explain it. She opened her eyes and let me hold her. It was the best feeling.”
Breitling said the family was told Melody would have severe brain damage because of the lack of oxygen and that she would not be able to walk or talk – but her daughter hasn’t shown any signs of such issues.
There has been some delay in learning but that is normal for a premature baby, Breitling said.
“She is doing great,” she said. “She is working on rolling over. She wants to crawl. She has not got the coordination down for that quite yet but she is trying to move her legs and follow her big sister.
“She had two brain surgeries while she was at Cook’s,” she said. “She has a temporary shunt and a permanent shunt that is helping to remove some of the excess brain fluid. So we had a followup with them and they did an MRI, and they checked her out.”
In July, Breitling was able to meet part of the team that assisted her and Melody that day. When December came around, Breitling and her children were invited to the hospital for Santa photos. Two of the Breitling care team members, Jason and Jaclyn Wilson, were taking part in the festivities, with Jason taking on the role of Santa in greeting patients, staff and visitors.
Jaclyn was a part of the nursing team and Jason served as a respiratory therapist. Along with the Wilsons, the Stork Team that’s involved with high-risk deliveries includes a baby nurse, neonatal nurse, nurse practitioner and a physician.
“My role in that situation is to help establish an airway and maintain the airway and provide advanced airway (care) if need be,” Jason said. “We went through the gauntlet that day. We stayed up there until transport arrived. Sick babies like that we can’t keep at our hospital, we have to transport them out to a higher level of care.
“Once the transport arrived and left, I called Jaclyn’s phone and said the baby was headed to Cook’s,” he said. “I didn’t realize what was going on with Crystal and she stated, ‘Can you come down to ICU?’ Our ICU team, along with the Labor and Delivery Team and the physicians were all on board. I got to go in and help care for her to get her somewhat stabilized so that they could get back to surgery.”
By the time Breitling arrived at Baylor Scott and White they were already prepared to start treatment due to information radioed ahead by the ambulance crew, Jaclyn said.
“She was very sick and we immediately took her to the operating room to deliver the baby,” Jaclyn said. “She continued to lose more blood throughout her stay and had what we call a DIC, which means that her blood can’t clot anymore. So, as much blood that you are pouring in, it can’t clot and hold onto it. We got her stabilized around 9 or 10 p.m. and then transferred her to the larger facility in Dallas,” she said.
Jaclyn stated even though they are married it is not unique they work directly together because respiratory is a large part of the care provided to both mother and child. She noted they are just one part of a large team.
“The culture that we have created here at Baylor Waxahachie is teamwork,” Jaclyn said. “We rely on each other. To take care of the baby and the mom took specialty departments and units to come together to save both of their lives.”
Jason stated when the two were transferred to other hospitals for additional care that was the last time that he saw them until the Santa pictures on Dec. 11.
At first, Jason and Breitling didn’t realize who each other was and that they had previously met.
“It was a bit overwhelming at first because when they said, ‘This is Crystal,’ talk about putting a lump in your throat,” Jason said. “It was that tense feeling in your gut. I had my beard painted white and I was like, ‘Don’t make those eyes water and make that paint run.’
“It was a feeling of joy and happiness to see her and the baby doing so well and her family,” he said. “A lot of being in a facility like this where we have to transport our patients out and don’t get the opportunity to continue their care, you hear updates from physicians that person is doing well but to put your eyes on it was wow.”
Jaclyn said it was an emotional moment seeing Jason make that connection.
“Crystal was emotional as soon as she learned that he was a part of her miracle story,” Jaclyn said. “She got teary-eyed and wanted to meet him.”
The emergency call was “a terrible situation and we were very fortunate that we had such a positive outcome for both and it was indeed a miracle,” Jason said.
“Talking with Crystal [the day of the Santa photos], I talked to her about my oldest son,” he said. “He is an ex-24-week preemie. He is 19 years old now and goes to college and is doing great. He has defied all odds and is a miracle.
“I talked to her and said, ‘You know, with the baby having such a strong outcome, God has a plan for her,’ ” Jason said.
His son, Bryson, is why he got into his career as a respiratory therapist, Jason said, saying that the experience allows him to work with patients better because he knows and understands their feelings and concerns.
Breitling expressed her thanks to everyone from the firefighters, EMTs and paramedics to the staff at each of the three hospitals that were involved in saving her and Melody’s lives.
“I don’t know if I can ever thank them enough,” Breitling said. “All day long they will tell me that ‘this is my job and this is what we do and thank you is enough.’ That is what they have told me. I want to tell them, ‘Thank you,’ because they could have called it.
“They didn’t give up,” Breitling said. “For the people reading this story, I want them to know that miracles do happen. We get a front row seat to this amazing little miracle every day. I would just say, for people reading this, that God is still in the business of miracles. It was truly a God thing that there were people in the right places at the right time to get us where we needed to be. We are just so thankful that they are a major part of our story.”