Plagued with numerous medical conditions at birth, tiny Rellick Lorenzana fought hard to survive

by: RAY PITZ - Cheri Lorenzana looks at her son Rellick in April. The little boy has survived tremendous medical odds -- and was recently removed from oxygen -- and is thriving.Sleeping peacefully with a tiny oxygen tube sticking from his nose, no one would ever suspect that shortly after his birth, Rellick Lorenzana was given only a small chance of surviving.

That was due to a myriad of complications the premature baby had when he arrived into the world on Nov. 20 weighing 1 pound, 12 ounces.

So small was Rellick that he was initially fed with a nasogastric tube, which went down his throat and into his stomach, according to his mother Cheri Lorenzana.

Three months before Lorenzana’s due date, her placenta ruptured and she was taken to Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center before being transported to Legacy Emmanuel Medical Center where Rellick was born via C-section. A short time later, he was taken down the hall to Randall Children’s Hospital and placed in the neonatal intensive care unit, or what’s commonly known as NICU.

Arriving after only 25 weeks, he had his struggle cut out for him.

“I don’t think there was anyone in the NICU that was lower than 24 to 25 weeks,” said Lorenzana.

His health problems meant she couldn’t see her son for several hours (and because he was so premature, it was a good week before she could actually hold him).

“It was a long time,” Lorenzana recalled about seeing her son for the first time. “When I was in post op, the neonatologist said, ‘He’s really little. He has some issues.’”

All Lorenzana remembers is that the doctor gave her statistics about premature babies, telling her there were several medical problems that they wouldn’t know immediately if he was dealing with, and some might not be known for awhile.

One was that he had chronic lung RAY PITZ - In April, Rellick Lorenzana needed oxygen to help him breath. Since then, he can now breath without help.

This meant that he was initially placed on oxygen, and his early days were constantly punctuated with the constant beeping of a pulse oximeter, a machine that measured little Rellick’s pulse and oxygen saturation.

“This monitor beeps non-stop,” Lorenzana said during an earlier interview. (Today, Rellick no longer needs oxygen.)

The other problem was that Rellick was born with was a hole in his heart, which resulted in a 45-minute surgery only a week after he was born. He then contracted bacterial meningitis, forcing him to be on antibiotics for a month. He also had to undergo hernia surgery on his left side.

“They didn’t know if he’d survive, and when he contracted bacterial meningitis, they said he had a 10 percent or less chance,” said Lorenzana.

That prognosis hit her hard.

“I kind of spent a day in shock,” she said.

All the problems threw Lorenzana, a 2007 graduate of Sherwood High School, into a constant level of concern and worry.

Then her favorite nurse at Randall Children’s Hospital simply told her, “Knock it off. He’s going to be fine.”

A graduate of Minnesota State University at Moorhead, Lorenzana, 23, has a degree in elementary education, something that’s helped her understand her son’s issues.

Eventually, Lorenzana got to the point where if Rellick appeared to be in danger, she knew the doctors and nurses would fix it.

Before it was all said and done, Lorenzana spent 15 to 20 hours each day in the NICU with her son before leaving after 114 days.

“I’d say I was the den mom of the NICU,” said Lorenzana “I reached out to all the other families… and just kind of (affirmed) the NICU staff in general.”

Today she’s on the Parents Support Advisory Committee at Randall’s Children Hospital’s NICU, coordinating such things as getting fparents together for lunch to help ease the burden of what they are going through.

“The NICU is a pretty emotional journey,” Lorenzana pointed out.

Erin Byrne, a staff nurse in Legacy Emmanuel’s neonatal ICU for 16 years, said she recalls that Rellick was pretty small.

“Percentage-wise he was pretty sick,” said Byrne. “He had a tough time, he definitely did.”

But Byrne said she remembers that Lorenzana was extremely strong during those difficult first days of her son’s life.

“She was so great,” recalled Byrne. “She even provided support for other parents.”

Byrne said that Lorenzana made crafts for those parents and eventually created a scrapbook featuring Rellick and other babies on the neonatal ICU. Lorenzana left that scrapbook with the nurses, something Byrne called “touching.”

by: COURTESY OF CHERI LORENZANA - In May, Rellick Lornenzana (and his mother Cheri) celebrated the fact the then-6-month-old boy didn't need an oxygen tank to help him breathe.For her part, Lorenzana said she made sure she supported the staff and thanked them for everything they did.

“They said nobody ever does this,” recalled Lorenzana. “I said, ‘What? You save these babies’ lives!’”

Now Lorenzana takes everything one day at a time.

“(Rellick’s) still not completely out of the woods for cerebral palsy,” said Lorenzana, “but he could be totally fine.”

Babies born so early have a greater chance of contracting the disease, she pointed out.

What she’s pleased with now is that everyday he’s learning something new, and he now weighs 14 ½ pounds.

“He just recently found his voice, so he can coo,” said Lorenzana.

And what does she want for Rellick?

“I just want him to be happy,” she said. “He can be whatever he wants to be. He survived the worst of it.”

To help defray medical expenses, Lorenzana has set up a fund Click here to visit a special fund Lorenzana has set up to help defray medical expenses .

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