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Medical crews team up to save premature baby born in Marble Falls during storm

Crews work to save premature baby's life

Crews from Baylor Scott & White-Marble Falls and Dell Children’s medical centers set up a makeshift intensive neonatal unit at the Marble Falls hospital to save the life of a premature baby who was born during the winter storm. Photo courtesy of Ascension Seton

While most people stayed off the roads during the recent winter storm, a doctor and two nurses traveled from east Austin to Marble Falls in an effort to save a newborn baby’s life.

At about 2:30 a.m. Feb. 17, Kimberly Arias began experiencing painful cramps. At 24 weeks pregnant, Arias thought she couldn’t be in labor. When the cramps didn’t subside, she called her sister, who is a nurse at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Marble Falls. Her sister listened to Arias’ symptoms and initially thought the pregnant woman was dehydrated.

However, the nurse advised, if the cramps continue and get closer, Arias needed to get to the emergency room. 

Along with the pain and fear of going into early labor, the icy, winter conditions added to Arias’ concerns.

The cramps continued, eventually coming about every two minutes. 

Despite the hazardous road conditions, Arias and her parents headed to the closest hospital, Baylor Scott & White-Marble Falls.

Crews work to save premature baby's life
Kimberly Arias gave birth to her daughter, Zaylynn, at 24 weeks on Feb. 17 during the winter storm at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Marble Falls. A team from Dell Children’s Medical Center in Austin drove to the Highland Lakes to help save the child’s life. Photo courtesy of Ascension Seton

Emergency room nurses and staff realized this was more than simply cramps and conducted an ultrasound on the pregnant patient. They discovered that baby’s head was approaching Arias’ cervix and she was about to give birth.

Staff transferred Arias to labor and delivery, where she gave birth to her first daughter, Zaylynn.

The baby weighed only 600 grams, or just over 21 ounces. Baylor Scott & White pediatrician Dr. Curtis Copeland and Labor and Delivery Nurse Meredith Schubert worked to stabilize Zaylynn, but it became apparent that she needed advanced neonatal intensive care.

In a normal situation, hospital teams can usually transfer little ones such as Zaylynn to a facility with a NICU. However, with the extreme winter weather, EMS units from across the Highland Lakes and Central Texas couldn’t get to the baby.

Over at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas in Austin, Dr. John Loyd learned of the situation unfolding in Marble Falls. As Dell Children’s neonatal division chief, he realized that without advanced intervention, Zaylynn might not survive. 

He, along with Dell Children’s registered nurse Kelly Klaus and certified registered nurse Nicole Padden, volunteered to make the trip from Austin to Marble Falls to assist the Baylor Scott & White crew in saving Zaylynn’s life. 

After safely arriving at the Marble Falls medical center, the Dell Children’s crew set up a makeshift neonatal intensive care unit. Together, the Dell Children’s and Baylor Scott & White teams cared for the mother and daughter.

Crews work to save premature baby's life
Austin-Travis County STAR Flight prepares to transport newborn Zaylynn to Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas in Austin after she was born prematurely Feb. 17 at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Marble Falls. Photo courtesy of Ascension Seton

As the snow and ice continued to cover the Highland Lakes and Central Texas, the doctors, nurses and staff slept at the hospital to make sure mother and daughter were safe.

“The Baylor Scott & White team did an astounding job caring for Zaylynn with the resources available to them,” Loyd said. “We are proud of the teamwork and commitment during an unprecedented challenging time to provide quality care to his family.”

Once it was safe, Austin-Travis County STAR Flight transported Zaylynn to Dell Children’s, where there is a Level IV neonatal intensive care unit.

Arias was discharged from Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Marble Falls on Feb. 19 and reunited with her daughter at Dell Children’s the following day.

She was extremely grateful for the efforts of Baylor Scott & White, Ascension Seton, and Dell Children’s teams for their care.

“I appreciate how the doctor and nurses risked their safety to travel to help us,” Arias added.