Spotlight on World Prematurity Day: Joymesha and Sutton’s Story

Two-year-old Sutton Jones loves to play and learn like any other toddler her age. She brandishes a wide smile while saying her A-B-C’s and 1-2-3’s. She is just learning to write her name on paper and trying her hand at sports. Each of these milestones are especially meaningful to her mother, Joymesha, considering the way Sutton came into this world—and how close Joymesha came to losing her.

In the summer of 2018, 35-year-old Joymesha had a relatively easy first and second trimester of her pregnancy. During this time, Joymesha started seeing Gerilynn Vine, M.D., an OB/GYN with Memorial Hermann Medical Group (MHMG) Texas Medical Center Obstetrics and Gynecology.

“I saw Dr. Vine for the first time at 24 weeks, she was so sweet. She said, at first, that this was going to be a textbook pregnancy. Everything was fine at that time,” said Joymesha “She told me that in my next appointment, we were going to do a screening for gestational diabetes.”

According to March of Dimes, seven out of every 100 pregnant women in the United States are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that can develop in pregnancy in women who do not already have the disease.

At her 28-week appointment, Joymesha’s blood pressure was dangerously high. In addition, she did not pass the glucose tolerance test, which led to a diagnosis of gestational diabetes. Her doctors also determined she had severe preeclampsia, which is a pregnancy complication brought on by high blood pressure.

“I was ordered to go on mandatory bed rest, told to take my blood pressure daily and told that I would be delivering my baby at 37 weeks,” said Joymesha.

The next day, Joymesha went back for further testing, but was admitted to the hospital after her doctors found protein in her urine. Dr. Vine told her that if they were unable to get her blood pressure lowered, she would need to deliver her baby that day.

“I was crying. It was scary. I knew I would do whatever I could to save the baby,” said Joymesha. “When I got to the room, the doctors kept coming in, pumping more and more blood pressure medicine and trying to get it down.”

Her doctors were also concerned that the baby had not developed enough to live outside the womb. They gave her an Antenatal Betamethasone shot, which was used to speed up lung development in baby Sutton in case they needed to deliver her.

“The nurses were there for me and helped calm me down,” recalled Joymesha. “After that first day, we set a goal to make it to 34 weeks. One nurse dropped off a calendar so we could keep track. They basically said every day that I could keep her inside was just taking off time that she will be in the NICU.”

For three weeks, Joymesha remained in the hospital, counting the days. She was monitored closely and at one day shy of hitting 32 weeks, her care team determined that she would need to deliver that evening.

“While I had been waiting, I did so much research. I was on the March of Dimes website. I had joined a preemie parent’s support group on Facebook, so I knew what I was going into. And, I toured the NICU so it wasn’t a total surprise anymore,” said Joymesha.

The C-section took less than an hour, and Sutton Jones was born on Dec. 2, 2018. She weighed nearly three pounds. When she arrived, she started screaming, which was music to her mother’s ears.

“The moment I laid eyes on her, my life changed forever,” Joymesha said. “Before Sutton was rushed to the NICU, I was able to see her for a few seconds and she was beautiful swaddled in the blanket.”

Joymesha was very close to losing her baby and her own life that day. Her placenta had started separating from her body and if her doctors had not performed the C-section when they did, it is likely that both lives would have been lost.

“Twenty-four hours after delivery, I was finally able to be reunited with Sutton in the NICU. When I walked in, I immediately knew who she was,” Joymesha said. “In those first moments, I sat there staring at her, then the nurses came and gave her to me. I didn’t think I was going to be able to hold her because she was so little, but they gave her to me, and it felt wonderful to finally hold her.”

Joymesha says Sutton struggled to take milk, and eventually the doctors discovered she was having silent aspirations. She also had a club foot and a laryngeal cleft, which is an abnormal opening between the larynx and the esophagus through which food and liquid can pass through. After a few procedures and surgeries, Sutton made it through. Joymesha says she is forever grateful for the nurses, staff and doctors who helped both her and her baby survive.

“Thank you to the antepartum staff for taking care of me. I felt like I was a part of their family. Even if they weren’t my nurse for the day, they still stopped by to see me to check on me to make sure I was okay,” Joymesha said. “The labor and delivery nurses, the recovery nurses, the NICU staff—they are family and I love them all. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the antepartum nurses. And I wouldn’t have known how to take care of my baby if it wasn’t for the NICU nurses.”

To learn more about the symptoms and treatment of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and other high-risk factors, visit https://memorialhermann.org/services/conditions/high-risk-pregnancy.

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Ali Vise