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Father loses job, family evicted as premature infant fights for survival
The Stewarts have had their fair share of strife after their baby was born three months early.
But even after facing eviction and job loss, among other financial hardship, their biggest concern is keeping their son alive.
Valdar Ulfernon Stewart was born June 25 at 24 weeks old via emergency C-section. After doctors at EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland worked to delay Katherine Stewart’s labor, her water broke from a placental abruption when her pregnancy was at 19 weeks.
“It was nerve-wracking,” Katherine Stewart said, noting she went into labor several times but was able to ward it off with magnesium.
Katherine Stewart, 27, started to have pregnancy induced hypertension five weeks into her pregnancy and she believes this is what caused her membranes to tear, eventually causing the water break.
She has been staying at the hospital since June 11.
On the morning Valdar was born, his heart rate kept dropping. The next thing his mother knew, she was on the operating table being given a spinal tap.
“We didn’t think he would make it past delivery because he had been a couple of hours without oxygen,” she said. “No one expected him to make it.”
However, Katherine and Alan Stewart were shocked to learn he was alive.
“He’s beaten all of these odds. We’ve almost lost him three times outside of delivery,” Katherine Stewart said, adding her son’s name means “commander.” “You’re scared to get hopeful.”
Today, their son, at 5 weeks old, has been on antibiotics, he’s received transfusions and has needed help breathing since day one. Because he was born premature, weighing only 720 grams or 1.58 pounds, Valdar also has moderate Patent Ductus Arteriosus. The condition, an opening in the heart, is common in premature babies and usually closes within minutes or up to a few days after birth.
His mother said he also has right and left brain ventricle bleeds, frontal lobe trauma and swelling from built up spinal fluid, which could give him learning disabilities or various levels of cerebral palsy.
“We can’t tell right now what the conditions are going to be when he’s older, so we really try not to get wrapped up in what could possibly be an outcome from different medical issues that he’s dealing with because it could change,” Katherine Stewart said. “There are people who have babies born extremely premature and their babies have absolutely no issue and there are babies that have been born around 28 weeks … and they have tons of issues later on. It’s so hard to predict.”
Right now, the focus is one day at a time, and getting him to gain weight, of course.
At 900 grams or nearly 2 pounds, Valdar is on mass caloric intake.
While Katherine Stewart essentially lives at the hospital, making medical decisions for Valdar, her husband Alan Stewart, 24, stays at a temporary home nearby the hospital with their four other children.
Faced with no child care, Alan Stewart stepped up to care for their children as soon as his wife was hospitalized; she normally watched the kids while her husband worked as a steel worker for the local 66 steel metal union.
“I love to work,” he said. “My work is literally my fun time. I like to make stuff … There is a sense of hopelessness because I’m a construction worker. If it’s broke, I fix it. But this is not something I can replace if it’s not able to be fixed.”
With Katherine Stewart at the hospital and Alan Stewart unable to work, the couple tried to come to a rent agreement with their landlord. But soon after, they say their landlord went through the process to evict them. After battling it out in court, the family was only given a five-day extension and were forced to lean on the generosity of a family member in Redmond.
But the family of now-seven wants somewhere to call home in a location close to EvergreenHealth Medical Center because they anticipate Valdar will be there until his due date, Oct. 15, maybe even after.
“We would love to get a home in Kirkland or nearer to the hospital because when we were living in Sultan, it was $10 every day to get there and back,” Alan Stewart said. “I’m hoping to be able to live close so that I can maybe go back to work.”
The Stewarts currently have a website set up for people who want to help them out financially at www.gofundme.com/3hn2pc. They have raised $3,490 for living expenses so far.
“I despise shaking the tin can online but when you sign up to be a dad, shame goes out the window when it’s for your kids,” Alan Stewart said.
The Stewarts said they are very grateful to the doctors at EvergreenHealth who have cared for Valdar and his mother “exceptionally well.”
For more information on baby Valdar, visit www.facebook.com/mommyandbabystewart.