DIXON – Kennedi Jo Smothers was born about 3:30 p.m. Dec. 31. She was born at KSB Hospital in Dixon. And she was born 7 weeks premature during emergency cesarean section surgery to save her mother’s life.
“I was at home, and she was always kicking up a storm,” Kelsey Smothers said Thursday from a bed in Room 218 in KSB’s obstetrics department. “... I didn’t feel her moving for about 2 hours. I drank a soda, ate some Oreos, and lay on my side. I did what I could.”
Kelsey and her husband of 2 years, Justin Smothers, both of Amboy, then went to KSB Hospital, where Kennedi Jo’s vital signs checked out fine, they said. Kelsey, however, was sent to a Rockford hospital because doctors were concerned about pre-eclampsia.
Pre-eclampsia is a condition that can occur late in a pregnancy, said Dr. Robb Rydzynski, Kelsey’s doctor, who had seen her a week before Dec. 31.
“We’re not exactly sure why it happens, but it typically occurs during the end of a pregnancy,” he said. “Women have a constellation of symptoms. It’s something that affects their entire body.”
Pre-eclampsia, which can include elevated blood pressure and kidney and liver failure, can transition to eclampsia, Rydzynski said.
Eclampsia can result in seizures for the mother and can be life threatening, he said, adding that the only cure is giving birth. There is no risk to the baby, he added.
In his 8 years at KSB, Rydzynski has seen only one woman transition from pre-eclampsia to eclampsia: Kelsey Smothers.
“It’s really an unpredictable transition from pre-eclampsia to eclampsia,” Rydzynski said. “So that’s why we take it so seriously, because we want to prevent moms from making that transition.”
Kelsey was taken to the Rockford hospital, which is better able to treat a premature baby, to be monitored and treated in the in the event she transitioned.
Kelsey said she was discharged from the Rockford hospital the night of Dec. 30, despite experiencing a severe headache and despite her and Justin’s desire to stay. The hospital told them there was no medical reason to keep Kelsey, Justin said.
“We were expecting a Valentine’s Day baby,” Justin said. “We weren’t expecting any of this to happen.”
‘And the phone went blank’
By noon Dec. 31, things had become worse for Kelsey, she said, and she called her mother.
“Her mom called [Kelsey’s] grandpa to have him check on her real quick,” Justin said. “Her mom called her back to say, ‘Grandpa is coming to check on you.’
“Well, [Kelsey] wasn’t making any sense on the phone. And the next thing you know, all my mother-in-law hears is her yell, ‘Mom.’ And the phone went blank.”
An ambulance was called to take Kelsey to KSB. She doesn’t remember much about the next 2 days.
“I remember laying on the couch,” Kelsey said. “And that’s about it. The next thing I remember is getting the spinal [anaesthesia] for the C-section.”
She remembers hearing Kennedi Jo crying after the birth, but then her memory takes her to her second day in the intensive care unit.
Kelsey began to improve during her third day in intensive care, Rydzynski said.
Kelsey was discharged from the hospital at 10 p.m. this past Tuesday, but stayed in a room with Kennedi Jo, who was doing fine despite weighing only 4 pounds, 3 ounces.
When Kelsey got to the hospital on New Year’s Eve, she had already had a seizure at home, and the hospital paged Rydzynski, who was doing another surgery and couldn’t leave.
Kelsey was stabilized until Rydzynski finished the other surgery, then he went straight to the emergency room.
“I had seen her probably a week previous to seeing her in the emergency room,” he said. “I did not even recognize her. One of the other components of pre-eclampsia is swelling. She was so swollen, if I walked down the street I wouldn’t recognize her.”
Because of the seizure, Kelsey will see a neurologist and still is experiencing some problems that likely aren’t permanent: short-term memory loss, and issues with some motor skills and speaking. She still has little-to-no feeling in her tongue and lip, she said, from when she bit them during the seizure.
‘Unreal that she was actually in me’
Kennedi Jo’s biggest obstacles to come are breathing issues, feeding difficulties and developing bleeds in her brain, Rydzynski said, but to this point she has done “incredible.”
“Sometimes, if they are in a stressful environment, these kiddos tend to be a little more resilient,” he said. “So we think that’s probably why this kiddo did so well, because it was in a stressful environment for a bit of time. We don’t know how long that was, but oftentimes they’re a little bit more resilient when they come out.”
Both Kelsey and Justin were nervous about leaving the hospital and heading home to Amboy with their daughter on Friday, they said, adding that while they don’t think they’re in the clear yet, they’ll have a good support system of family and friends.
“It’s unreal that she was actually in me,” Kelsey said. “I go from being pregnant and having this human growing inside of you, and next thing you know they’re handing her to you and you have no clue what had just happened.
“And she’s perfect.”