HIGH POINT, N.C. — Six years ago, we introduced you to Amari Jones, one of North Carolina’s only micro-preemies delivered at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center. Born four months early, Amari weighed only 15 ounces, roughly the size of a smartphone.
Doctors gave him less than a 10% chance of survival. Fast forward to today, where Amari is thriving. He is a typical 6-year-old boy who is missing teeth and loves to play.
“He's all boy, so he's tumbling and flipping and monster-trucking all over the house,” his mom, 31-year-old Rodericka Moore said.
February 25, 2016: Delivery Day
Doctors at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center induced Moore at 24 weeks to save her and the baby.
"I had preeclampsia and I developed HELLP where your liver fails and your body fights against itself. They induced me four months early and that's when they didn't know if Amari was going to make it or not,” Moore said.
Born premature, weighing under a pound and only a few inches long, Amari was roughly the size of a smartphone.
“We couldn’t hold him for more than a month. The only thing he could do was hold our finger,” said Moore.
Moore and Amari’s father were forced to bond with their newborn through a clear, plastic incubator in the hospital’s NICU. Amari spent 120 days in the hospital and suffered several setbacks and obstacles as he fought to stay alive.
“He had three different brain bleeds in three different sections of his brain,” Moore said.
The hemorrhages resulted in Grade 3 ventricle bleeding. That, on top of his microminiature size, were two giant mountains doctors didn't think he could climb.
“I was like, he’s going to make it. The doctor said he couldn’t guarantee that,” Moore said.
"I would die for my child."
Hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelets -- or HELLP syndrome -- is a life-threatening pregnancy complication that can also be diagnosed with preeclampsia.
Symptoms include nausea, headache, belly pain, and swelling. Treatment usually requires doctors to deliver the baby early, often before the mother’s 37th week of pregnancy and when the baby is considered premature.
Moore was in and out of the hospital for a month before being induced to deliver Amari in her 24th week of pregnancy.
“My feet hurt, my head hurt. I was on bed rest, but nothing was helping. They told me they had to get the baby out or I was going to die. But I told them, save my baby. I would die for my child. I told them don’t worry about me,” Moore said.
After surviving preeclampsia and emergency delivery, Moore is determined to help other pregnant moms who may be unaware of this life-threatening syndrome.
“If your feet hurt or they’re swollen, I always tell moms to go to the doctor. I don’t think some people take this seriously, but every minute you ignore your headache or these problems, you’re putting your baby and yourself at risk," Moore said.
God had a different plan
Doctors didn’t have much hope they would be able to save both Moore and her son Amari. But Moore said God had a different plan. Months later, Amari came home.
“I was small, now I’m big," Amari said.
Amari started kindergarten this school year where he enjoys learning and playing with his friends. He's smaller than most kids in his class but his mom said he keeps up.
“He’s tiny, so he's still underweight. He's only 35 pounds. However, he eats like he is 35 people," mom said.
She said her miracle baby is healthy, but still faces several challenges.
"He's six years old but he’s in a 4T, so his waist is very small. It took him longer to speak, it takes him longer to think about what he's going to say,” Moore said.
"He has a purpose!"
From pint-sized preemie to his first steps and every fall in between, each moment is a giant reason to celebrate life.
"I have my miracle baby! But now he doesn't want me to call him a baby," Moore said.
We could all use Amari's story as a reminder to appreciate the blessing each day brings.
"I want him to be able to tell his story one day because he has a purpose. You may be delayed but you can be whoever you want to be regardless of how long it takes you to get there," Moore said.
The Children's Developmental Services Agency or CDSA keeps track of premature births. According to them, Amari is the only micro-preemie in North Carolina born under a pound to survive so far. Apparently, Amari just missed a Guinness World Record set by a baby in Alabama who weighed only 14.8 ounces at birth. Amari weighed 15 ounces.