From preemie to playful toddler

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

Audrey Schipke was a surprise all around to her parents, who had no hint they would become a March of Dimes Ambassador Family.
The good surprise was Audrey’s conception. Brad and Kristy Schipke had struggled with fertility problems and a miscarriage prior to the birth of their first child Ava, who arrived without incident at full term.
“We found out on Aug. 24, 2009, that I was pregnant again,” Kristy Schipke said. “It was a very easy pregnancy … I did everything ‘by the book.’”
Audrey’s arrival, which was supposed to be around April 15, was a scarier surprise. On Jan. 11, without warning, her mother’s water broke while she was working at the South Gloster Street CitiFinancial office.
“I did my best not to panic and called my doctor’s office,” Kristy Schipke said. “My boss was on another phone calling my mother” and it took 30 minutes to find Brad Schipke who was working out of town.
Kristy Schipke quickly ended up at North Mississippi Medical Center Women’s Hospital, where she received two doses of steroids to help Audrey’s lungs mature and was closely monitored.
“With each passing day, we were a little closer to a healthier baby,” Kristy Schipke said. “It was just a waiting game.”
The ultimate goal was to get to 34 weeks gestation – which would have been March 4. As a group, babies who make it to 34 weeks gestation while not considered full-term, have better outcomes.
“The biggest thing is that preemies are not born with ability to suck, swallow or breathe,” Kristy Schipke said. “That comes about 34-35 weeks.”
Kristy Schipke focused on the first step – she was determined to hold on to her pregnancy to at least Feb. 1. And that’s exactly how far she made it.
Because Kristy Schipke’s contractions didn’t show on monitors, Audrey’s birth nearly caught the medical team by surprise on the morning of Feb. 1. Kristy had to hang on for a few minutes so the NICU team could respond to help in case Audrey was in distress.
“She came into the world very dramatically,” Kristy Schipke said. “It was scary.”
Thanks to the steroids, Audrey’s lungs were strong, and she didn’t require a ventilator. However, her digestive system wasn’t developed fully and she had apnea episodes where her immature system would momentarily stop functioning.
“She was a week old before we got to hold her,” Brad Schipke said.
“It was a month before we put clothes on her,” Kristy Schipke added. “You just don’t think about those things.”
When the Schipkes brought Audrey home they were careful to follow doctor’s orders and guard against unnecessary exposure to germs.
“They told us no type of nursery, even a church nursery, for a year,” Kristy Schipke said.
Now Audrey is a feisty 14-month-old, 28-pound toddler on the verge of walking. She’s met her developmental milestones – although she said “dada” and lots of other words before “mama.”

Long association
The Schipke family has supported March of Dimes for years.
Kristy Schipke has participated in March for Babies as part of a team through her company, CitiFinancial; CitiGroup is one of March of Dimes’ national sponsors, too. Her mom, Cindy Fowler, works with infants at NMMC Women’s Hospital.
Brad Schipke, who is a twin, was born premature and struggled to breathe.
“I had to have chest tubes when I was born five weeks early,” Brad Schipke said. “That was before they had surfactant,” a life-saving treatment March of Dimes research helped developed that helps premature babies’ lungs function.
“I never thought it could be us,” Kristy Schipke said.

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