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The incredible story of Pau, a baby born at 24 weeks gestation

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PAU

Gentileza familia Balagué

Dolors Massot - published on 04/12/22

The little boy is a rare "extreme preemie" with no side effects, and his parents believe he is a walking miracle.

Xavier Balagué, “Xavi,” and his wife Barbara have two children. The younger of the two, Pau, was born at 24 weeks of gestation. A great little miracle!

Xavi told us the story:

“In January 2017, my wife became pregnant with Pau, our second son. It was a very complicated pregnancy from the beginning, with continuous bleeding, forced rests, admissions to the Maternitat …” (The Maternitat is one of the branches of an important hospital in Barcelona, Spain, where the family lives.)

Contractions began in the fifth month

“On June 23, Barbara was in the fifth month of pregnancy but started having contractions, so she had to be admitted.”

“The doctors,” Xavi recalls, “told us how delicate the situation was and the risks of such a premature birth. Barbara is an exceptional woman who, with great determination, took strict and absolute rest without moving from the bed, to gain as much time as possible. We counted the days as victories.”

However, the situation became very dangerous. “On June 26,” he recounts, “everything came to a head. Barbara called me at 11:15 p.m., crying, telling me that she was being rushed down to the operating room, that Pau was on his way and that she couldn’t wait any longer. I flew out of the house to the Maternitat and arrived just on time to see her a moment before she entered the operating room. I couldn’t accompany her and I stayed outside.”

“Pau was born at 12:30 a.m. on June 27, 2017 when he should have been born in mid-October. He was an extreme preemie at only 24 weeks of gestation, weighing just 25 ounces, and I was only allowed a fleeting glimpse of him in the hallway on the way to the NICU stuffed in an incubator full of equipment and oxygen tanks.”

“The next morning in the neonatal ICU I discovered an unfamiliar world. The doctor informed me how serious Pau’s condition was. Among other problems, his lungs weren’t working.”

PAU
Xavi’s hand holding the hand of his son Pau, then 24 weeks old.

The experience was very difficult for Xavi as a father. He recalls, “You only had to take a look at all the incubators to realize how delicate Pau was, because unlike the others, his was full of pumps through which they administered all kinds of drugs. He was intubated on a respirator, plus tanks of nitric oxide.”

“Despite all the help he received, he maintained a very low blood oxygen saturation. He was suffering from continuous severe apneas.”

The time came to alert Xavi’s wife. “The doctor,” says Xavi, “told me that if the mother had not yet seen Pau, she should come down as soon as possible because the prognosis was very bad. When Barbara came down I could see the looks of compassion from all the nurses as she walked to the incubator. The doctor informed us that Pau was extremely critical, that we had to go hour by hour.”

“If you’re up there …”

“Forty-eight hours passed and Pau wasn’t improving. The doctors told us that there was nothing more they could do, that it was up to Pau to pull through, and that the next night was going to be decisive. We realized that the doctors had no hope that he would survive. They gave us no favorable expectations and prepared us for the worst.”

On the way back home on his motorcycle, Xavi had tears in his eyes. At that moment, he remembered Maruja Moragas, the mother of some friends he’d been close to since adolescence. When she and her three sons had been abandoned by her husband, the ordeal only strengthened her faith, and this helped her later on when she was diagnosed with cancer. She continued to have a strong impulse to help others, and during the last months of her life, she wrote a book about her suffering from the perspective of her faith. She died on April 28, 2013.

Xavi hadn’t been close to his friends’ mother during her lifetime, but had grown to feel connected to her at the time of her death. Inspired by her example of faith in difficulty, he turned to her for intercession: “Maruja, if you are up there, now is the time for you to prove it. Now is the time for you to take Pau’s hand and pull him out of this”. The next morning, on the way back to the Maternitat on his motorcycle, he kept repeating the same wish.

Maruja Moragas
Maruja Moragas

“When I arrived at the clinic, before entering the ICU, I looked through the window at Pau’s incubator and in amazement saw on his vitals monitor that his oxygen saturation was at 90 percent! Upon entering, the doctors told me that during the night Pau had passed a turning point and had inexplicably improved.”

“From then on the improvement was continuous. Within a few days he was extubated and went from assisted ventilation to wearing a CPAP. He began to have good results (…) without presenting any stroke (very common in extreme premature infants).”

PAU
Xavi holding Pau’s little hand between the tubes that assisted him as an extreme preemie.

They spent almost 100 days in the clinic before they were able to take the child home. “During those more than three months in the ICU we saw how other little ones were not as lucky, and that some children who initially had a better starting situation than Pau died. This showed us how exceptional Pau’s recovery had been.”

“The doctors and nurses at the Maternitat later confessed to us that during the first few days they saw no chance that Pau would make it. Some of them had even said goodbye to him. All of this was recorded in the medical discharge report, which indicated that Pau’s case was extraordinary. A nurse with more than 30 years of experience in the neonatal unit couldn’t remember such a case and described it as miraculous.”

What is Pau’s life like today?

One might wonder how Pau is today: does that premature baby require special medical attention?

Xavi Balagué explains what has happened to his little son:

“Since then, Pau has had none of all the probable side effects that the doctors warned us about.” The medical team had planned for Pau to be given therapeutic follow-up for the first five years of his life, but after just one year, Xavi says, “they discharged him saying that he was perfect and that they could not remember a case like this. In fact, they informed us that he was the only extreme preemie with no side effects they had ever treated.”   

PAU-BORN-24-WEEKS-SPAIN-0010-Gentileza-familia-Balague.jpg

From this story, Xavi is convinced that Maruja, who was simply his friend’s mother, had played an important role.

“Obviously there will always be the question of what would have happened if I hadn’t asked Maruja to help Pau. I only know what I asked her and what happened, I don’t need more. Some people changed Maruja’s life while she was alive; she changed mine afterwards. I will always be grateful to her for her help in Pau’s miraculous recovery.”

PAU
Pau in front of Maruja’s grave.

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