I don’t remember when I first heard the events of my tumultuous arrival, but there were clues. The thick calluses on my heels from drawing blood and the long three stitch scar on my left arm where my feeding tube used to reside, told the story of my earliest months. The fact that I was “a miracle” seemed to follow me around for a long time. Relatives doted on me and gave me presents “just because.” Even my elementary school teachers knew that I was a premature baby.
Regardless of the fact that I was different from most kids, I knew I was lucky.
According to Jeffery Kluger’s article “Saving Preemies” from the May issue of Time Magazine, premature babies (preemies as we are lovingly referred to) have less than a 5 percent chance of surviving if born at 22 weeks. Those who do survive face a difficult journey full of doctors, medicine and adversity.
I was born four months premature, 20 weeks after being conceived, according to my parents. Heavy weight champion at 1lbs., 13oz., my body was almost as tiny and delicate as a tadpole. The story goes that doctors said I would be a “vegetable, with no life whatsoever,” if I was lucky to get that far.
The clear incubator was my home for five months while my parents made daily trips to see how I was doing, praying that when they arrived they would have a baby to hold. Donning hospital gowns, with hands scrubbed clean, they would sing me the alphabet song and hold me in their arms for a while. It was a tender snapshot set against the chaotic, worrisome environment of the NICU.
Miraculously, I was eventually able to go home. No more tubes, no more steroid shots urging my lungs to work properly. Just a house in the suburbs, a mother and father, and their six kids all together for the first time.
Growing up, I never discussed this with anyone, not even my closest friends. It always seemed unnecessary. I came away unharmed. I am a normal teenage girl about to start college. I don’t have any issues that I seemed to be “predestined for” except a slight struggle with math.
I don’t take my survival lightly. Now that I am older, I have realized the impact of it. I made a promise to myself to make the most of this life that I was blessed to have. I want to take every possible chance I have to enjoy this insane and lovely world. I owe it to those who didn’t get enough time to make their mark on this world.
Angelina Lombardo is a lover of ’80s movies and late night Pinterest sessions. She is a Colorado native but Southern California still pulls at her heart strings and wants to be called “home.”