Cloquet “micro preemie” in the lime lightThe past couple of weeks have arguably been some of the biggest weeks of Tyler Korby’s life.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The past couple of weeks have arguably been some of the biggest weeks of Tyler Korby’s life.
Earlier this month, he and a handful of his peers were interviewed by People magazine along with a handful of his peers. On Monday, May 11, Korby and his friends were interviewed by the New York crew of “Inside Edition,” and KARE 11 in Minneapolis aired a story on all of them. On Tuesday, he was featured in a live, on-air interview on WCCO’s Mondale and Brown Show, and on Friday, the “Inside Edition” spot featuring Korby and the others was aired on national television. Saturday, as Korby graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth, he was also interviewed by WDIO Channel 10 television for the evening news that night.
Though this was a pretty heady stretch in the young Cloquet man’s life, there was inarguably a time far more important than that – the period of time following his birth. Weighing just 1 pound, 9 ounces and about the length of a dollar bill, Tyler, along with the others with whom he recently shared the media spotlight, was termed a “micro preemie,” a description generally referring to babies born at 23-26 weeks’ gestation and/or weighing less than 2 pounds 2 ounces.
Last week, several of the young people born as micro preemies at Children’s Hospital of Minnesota in Minneapolis during the same era as Korby met each other for the first time to share stories, talk about the things they’ve gone through, and reconnect with neonatologist Dr. Ronald Hoekstra, who has devoted his life to micro preemies.
“All of us talked about the things that no one else would ever understand,” said Korby.“Starting out as we all did, we all kind of share our own special world.”
“I got off to kind of a tough start....” began Korby during his interview on WCCO.
He went on to explain that following his birth at Children’s Hospital, he was hospitalized for a period four months under the supervision of Dr. Hoekstra and his staff, and his parents had to return home without him.
“It can be an emotional roller coaster for any parent who has a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit,” commented Dr. Hoekstra during the WCCO interview. “Our job as doctors is to take care of the parents as well as the babies and try to prepare them to realize the time ahead of them is going to be a marathon, not a sprint.”
After Korby’s parents were finally able bring him home, he developed a problem with his airwaves and had difficulty breathing, which required major reconstructive surgery at the age of one. Following that, he couldn’t speak for a period of about a year.
Once he made it through adolescence, however, Korby began to grow and thrive, without any of the attendant problems that sometimes accompany premature births.
“We were fortunate to be able to practice neonatology during a 20-year time period of major advances,” commented Hoekstra.
He said one of the leading advances was the development of surfactant, a synthetic substance to aid in the function of underdeveloped lungs which Hoekstra said literally changed the survival rate for micro preemies from 53 to 77 percent over a period of just two years.
“It is truly a miracle drug,” said Hoekstra.
Hoekstra said there have also been significant medical advances in dealing with eye problems of micro preemies, who once carried a significant risk of blindness. He said laser surgery can be performed on the “very tiniest and very earliest of babies” during the first few months of life, significantly increasing their chances of healthier outcomes.
As for Korby, he said he’s not only been healthy – but almost a little too hardy – for the balance of his time growing up.
“My mom would always tell me I could never sit still,” he grinned. “I was always playing baseball, going 110 percent all the time. I had a few broken bones and concussions, but I did all I could do in the name of having fun and enjoying life.”
Over the past year, Hoesktra and his medical colleagues have been reconnecting with as many of the micro preemies from the time period of 1986-1990 as possible to track how their lives have progressed as young adults, and he is putting together a study that is expected to be published later this year.
“This was probably the most emotional experience in my career,” commented Dr. Hoekstra during the WCCO interview, “ – to realize what miracles their lives really are. It’s a blessing from God.”
“There was something really great about connecting with all of the others,” summed up Korby. “This is a story that will always be an important part of all of us, and it was really special to be able to share it.”