Preemie Profile: Kinleigh the Cuddle Queen

Kinleigh Lauer

Gayla and Sean Lauer learned they were having a girl at their 20-week prenatal appointment. Moments later, they also learned their baby was growing very slowly, and Gayla might need to deliver her early.

Five weeks later, the concerns were confirmed. Gayla was suffering from a condition called preeclampsia, and her baby had intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). Gayla needed an emergency C-section as soon as possible.

“I was scared to death,” Gayla said. “I didn’t know if she was going to make it, and I didn’t know if I was going to make it.”

Kinleigh Lauer was born two days later at MU Children’s Hospital. She weighed 1 pound, .08 ounces and required three life-saving surgeries within her first two weeks of life.

“Different things were popping up every week,” Gayla said. “She was diagnosed with an intestinal disease that required emergency surgery. She had a bilateral brain bleed and also had many issues with her lungs and breathing. One thing you don't ever want to see is your baby laying on a table and turning blue because she can't breathe.”

After a few tumultuous months, Kinleigh’s condition stabilized. She then began a long road to recovery in the neonatal intensive care unit at MU Children’s Hospital.

“Honest to God, every single staff member has been amazing,” Gayla said. “It has truly been a team effort. They let me know that I wasn't alone and that they were there to help in any way they possibly could.”

Kinleigh was finally cleared to head home after spending more than one full year in the NICU. Over the long term, she will work closely with pulmonary doctors to improve her lung function. Gayla is hopeful that Kinleigh will be able to breathe on her own within two to three years.

“She is a very, very happy baby,” Gayla said. “She's pretty chill. She loves being cuddled with and sang to, and she loves being played with.”

Gayla said it’s important for parents to remain patient and level-headed when coping with prematurity.

“Take one day at a time,” she said. “There will be good days, and there will be plenty of bad days. Even though it's nice to dream about great things happening in the future, take things as they come.”

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