On September 8, 2013, Graceanne Payne was born at 26 weeks fetal age weighing 1 pound, 12 ounces. But her mother, Melissa Payne, was given the scare of her life when her water broke at 19-weeks. It is incredibly rare for babies to survive outside the womb this early in pregnancy. In fact, most doctors give babies this young, often called micropreemies, less than a two percent chance of survival.
During Melissa’s second trimester, the then 34-year-old’s water broke while she was visiting relatives in Maine. She was devastated and very surprised because her first daughter, Allie Claire, was born at full term. Since she was over 1,300 miles away from home, she was taken to the nearest hospital where she found out that her daughter would have to be delivered right away.
Melissa then rushed to see a specialist in Portland, who gave her even more bad news: Graceanne’s chances of survival were less than five percent. She said, “The specialist in New England) pretty much told me this was the hand of cards we were dealt, and we would have to fold them and start over.” He also said that if she did, she would have a very low quality of life and be a burden on their family.
However, Melissa refused to give up hope and decided to return to Georgia and figure out what to do once she got home. Immediately after she arrived, she visited with an obstetrician-gynocologist who approved her for continuing the pregnancy. Amazingly, her doctor was able to find a heartbeat and Melissa didn’t want to have an abortion, no matter what happened.
She said, “I believe that all babies are conceived for a reason. It is our job to try to protect them and support what they need. Even when it’s difficult or very trying, what some could see as a burden to your family is still a gift from God.”
After her decision, she was put on bed rest with the exception of doctors’ visits. She said, “Every day I was on bed rest I would feel her kicking and moving, and at the same time I would go to the doctor and they’d just frown and nod. I would do my best to stay very strong and try not to get upset.” For the next seven weeks, she held on to hope and relied on the support of her husband Kevin, friends, and deacons at her church.
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Another trial Melissa faced was missing out on her older daughter’s first days at a new school. She was sad that she didn’t get to go meet her new teachers or get to go to her open house. While those seem like small things, every milestone she missed was important to Melissa. Thankfully, after she was admitted into the hospital, her husband brought Allie Claire to visit every evening.
At the hospital, Melissa delivered her baby via caesarean section and Graceanne was immediately sent down to the NICU. Melissa said, “I woke up in recovery and asked where the baby was. They said she was down in the NICU, and had enough lung tissue to ventilate.”
The also told her that their main concern was her lungs and they were afraid that they wouldn’t be large enough to be put on a ventilator; however, she pulled through and was placed on a ventilator. Incredibly, her health improved and doctors became more hopeful as days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months.
Finally, after 97 days and six weeks on oxygen, Graceanne went home just in time for Christmas. Even though doctors thought she would have special needs, she has reached every one of her milestones. Now Graceanne has been chosen to be the 2015 March of Dimes Ambassador. The Payne’s are happy that their daughter was picked because they want to help raise money for others in their same situation. It usually costs parents with premature babies an average of $55,025 in medical bills compared to $4,320 for a healthy newborn.
Melissa concluded, ““Definitely the hand of God was involved in her survival. (Graceanne) just defied so many odds. We’re very excited to get her out there and let everyone know her and know her story, and learn about the miracle that she is. She has a purpose here, she was meant to be here, and we’re very thankful that we gave her a chance.”