On October 19, 2012, first-time mother and local salon stylist, Terra Scoggins’ water broke, fifteen weeks critically shy of her due date. She went into labor fast. So fast that just minutes after arriving at Hilton Head Hospital via ambulance, she gave birth to a son.
Two-pound, eight-ounce newborn “Daxton” had no heartbeat, no breath. A team of neonatal nurses and specialists revived him with critical life-saving care. Afterwards the hospital airlifted Dax to the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).
“He could have fit into his father’s hand,” said Terra when describing Dax’s first day in the world. “His skin was translucent. You could see all of his tiny veins.” Weeks would pass before she could hold him for the first time. “It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through.”
Born just over six months into gestation and weighing a third of his target weight, Dax would require months of neonatal intensive care to nurture the growth of his spindly arms and legs and undeveloped organs.
Now a toddler, Daxton Marshall Scoggins is this year’s local Ambassador for the March of Dimes, one of the nation’s oldest nonprofits. President Franklin D. Roosevelt founded the organization in 1938 to defeat polio. Ambassador children bring a fresh face to today’s mission of the March of Dimes—saving babies from the silent crisis of premature birth, a leading cause of infant mortality as well as long-term developmental disabilities.
Research backed by the March of Dimes has led to over a dozen Noble Prizes that reduce infant mortality and impact the health of babies. The March of Dimes also offers resources for expectant mothers who want to know what to eat and not to eat during pregnancy, how to breast-feed, or which questions to ask their doctor during their prenatal visits.
A Heroic Journey to Health
Experts considered Dax to be a “micro preemie,” deemed less than 1 percent of childbirths. The medical challenges that present with being profoundly premature are formidable.
During his stay in the NICU, Dax developed a brain bleed, an intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) that sometimes occurs in younger, smaller babies. Most bleeds are mild and resolve on their own, according to the March of Dimes. Doctors diagnosed Dax with a Grade IV IVH—the most severe.
Severe bleeds can cause pressure on the brain that can lead to brain damage. Dax survived without high-risk emergency neurosurgery to insert a shunt into his brain to drain the fluid.
Doctors also discovered that Dax had a heart defect called a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)—a persistent opening between blood vessels leading from the heart. According to the Mayo Clinic, the opening is a normal part of a baby’s circulatory system before birth that usually closes shortly after birth. But if it remains open, it can lead to heart failure. Doctors monitored Dax’s PDA and treated it with medication until the opening closed.
To help nurture Dax, Terra practiced kangaroo care or holding him skin-to-skin for hours at a time in the NICU. “It’s the only way of holding them when they are that tiny … their skin and nerve endings aren’t developed yet, so clothes hurt them,” said Terra.
Besides the close bonding between mother and child (or father and child), skin-to-skin holding may help the baby gain weight, keep his or her heartbeat and breathing regular, and spend more time in a deep sleep, according to the March of Dimes.
But make no mistake, “The NICU was hell,” said Terra while recalling the darkest days of her son’s hospitalization. “You’re in a large room with sick, dying babies. It’s uncomfortable with no privacy. I watched several moms say their goodbyes to their babies. If it weren’t for some of Dax’s primary nurses, I don’t know how we’d have made it. They were amazing!”
At two months old, Dax underwent surgery to insert a tracheostomy for an obstructive airway, scarring caused by the emergency intubation that saved his life at birth. He would require the “trach” to sustain his breathing for two years.
At five-and-a-half months, Dax came home but his intensive care continued. His life-sustaining equipment—oxygen tanks, feeding tubes and suction machine to keep his trachea clear—filled the Scoggins’ home. Dax also wore a helmet for seven months to sustain his still-growing cranial plates.
During recent reconstructive surgery, doctors used cartilage from Dax’s rib cage to build a new airway. “The surgery was very invasive and hard on him,” said Terra.
All and all, Dax underwent more than 15 procedures and will undergo another surgery this spring to close up the hole in his neck from his trach.
Family, friends and the local community sent prayers of strength and helped the Scoggins with some of their medical costs. The Bluffton Township Fire District’s Annual Boston Butts Fundraiser even raised $16,500 for Dax. Medicaid covered major costs.
When Terra and her husband, Charles faced life-threatening situations in the NICU, representatives from the March of Dimes brought critical information and comfort to help their newborn baby. And now the Scoggins family wants to give back.
On April 11, 2015, “Team Daxton’s Dynamos” will walk in one of the oldest walks for charity in the country, the March for Babies to raise awareness and donations for the March of Dimes.
March for Babies
Walk distance: 3 miles
Date: Saturday, April 11, 2015
Start time: 9:00AM
Registration time: 8:30AM
Make a donation:
Naval Heritage Park
Port Royal, SC
For more information call (843) 571-1776.