Defying the Odds: From Preemie to Class of 2019

By David Matthews

I’ve been defying the odds from the very beginning.

I was born Jan. 31, 2001 at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. My mom had preeclampsia, which led to me needing to be delivered early. I was born at 31 weeks, weighed 2 pounds and 12 ounces and had trouble breathing due to my small lungs. During my birth, doctors also noticed the umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck.

Doctors were fearful I wouldn’t make it, but here I am today, a recent high school graduate and still defying the odds.

Although I don’t remember the beginning of my life, my parents always shared stories of those early weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the hospital. My first few days of life were spent under a heat lamp to regulate my body temperature before I was able to go into an incubator. For about three weeks, I was only able to eat through a tube in my nose until I graduated to a mouth feeding tube. My last week in the NICU, I was finally able to drink from the small size bottles.

In all, I spent a little over a month in the NICU until I was able to go home to my parents and older sister.

Once we arrived home, my mom said we received occasional check-ins by specialists from the hospital to ensure I was meeting important milestones as I got older. In addition to being born premature, I have a genetic predisposition for high blood pressure. When I was younger, my blood pressure was extremely high and I was overweight. The doctor told me to change my ways so I started playing sports and eating healthy. I managed to lose weight and level my blood pressure. I continued to excel academically, played basketball and sang in the school choir. 

My older sister Adriana, Dr. Paul Cook and I at one of my hospital visits after I left the NICU.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had to truly believe in myself whether academically, on the basketball court or as it relates to my health. I’ve always managed to work hard and overcome the obstacles in front of me just as I did 18 years ago in the NICU. I’m looking forward to this next chapter as I start college this fall. My career goal is to become a physical therapist.  It will give me so much joy to help people regain their mobility after injuries, strokes or other illnesses.  

I’m excited for this next chapter and proud to be a NICU graduate. Thank you to the Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital affiliated doctors, nurses and staff for their care the first few weeks of my life. I’m where I am today, in part, because of them.

Congratulations to David and all of the Class of 2019 graduates!

To learn more about the advanced care available at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, click here.

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