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NEWPORT, VT - Baby Jonah Phoenix struggled for his life during his first year, but now he is healthy and is celebrating his first birthday today, September 22.
Jonah is the son of proud parents Lisa Higgins and Eric Matte.
Higgins is involved with the March of Dimes, a national, non-profit organization that supports mothers and babies.
Higgins said that March of Dimes advocates were very supportive when the family was going through a trying time.
She is also deeply grateful to the local pediatricians and Dartmouth doctors for the care they provided to her baby.
Nearly two years ago, Higgins went into labor nine weeks early and was transported to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire. There she delivered Jonah who weighed a mere four pounds.
Doctors took Jonah immediately and she didnâ€™t get to see him, she said, although his father did. He was taken to the intensive care nursery and began having trouble breathing. For four and a half days he struggled to breath and was hooked up to many tubes and a breathing apparatus.
During this time he experienced a grade III brain hemorrhage. The hemorrhage caused swelling in his head and he was forced to undergo his first brain surgery to help relieve the pressure.
After several more procedures, 45 days had passed and Jonah was able to go home.
Jonah continued to be monitored by Newport pediatricians and Dartmouth doctors. By Thanksgiving, it was clear Jonah needed another brain surgery to relieve pressure. The family headed back to Dartmouth.
Shortly after returning home, Jonah developed a common respiratory infection, which landed him back in the hospital once again, this time in an oxygen tent at North Country Hospital.
Jonah developed a high fever and tests indicated a blood infection. The family was again rushed to Dartmouth. The Newport pediatrician was so concerned, Higgins said, that she rode in the ambulance all the way to Dartmouth.
Luckily the infection had not spread to Jonahâ€™s brain through the tube which was in his body for drainage purposes.
â€śIt was such a difficult time,â€ť Higgins said, clearly becoming distraught in the interview.
But Higgins quickly regained her composure and said that Jonah is healthy now, a happy boy going strong and sitting up on his own. He continues to see specialists regularly to support his development. What the future holds for Jonah remains unknown, but it is looking positive, Higgins said.
Jonah has an older, adopted brother, Hunter, age 11. Hunter was understanding and supportive and a trooper through the rocky period, Higgins said.
During the interview, Higgins also talked in depth about all that March of Dimes does to help in situations such as theirs. Higgins formed a March of Dimes team of friends and family and has already raised $3,500.
The March of Dimes Walk for Babies is a four-mile event that will take place this Saturday morning, 9:00 a.m., at the American Legion in Newport. Registration is that morning beginning at 8:00 at the Legion. On-line registration is also available. The walk is open to anyone, individuals or teams.