Birthdays are times of celebration and remembering how far we have come. For the McCollum family, it was marked by bringing 40 gift bags in honor of their youngest child whose journey began at the McLane Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care […]
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Jaylee’s Journey: A Special Delivery to Celebrate Life and Strength

by Deontrea Jones on December 24, 2014

in Patient and Staff Stories

1Birthdays are times of celebration and remembering how far we have come.

For the McCollum family, it was marked by bringing 40 gift bags in honor of their youngest child whose journey began at the McLane Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) on December 23, 2013. Jason and Janelle McCollum of Hewitt, Texas, were expecting their fourth child when the unexpected happen just before last Christmas.

About 25 weeks into Janelle’s pregnancy, she developed a condition called preeclampsia that is characterized by high blood pressure and can affect the kidneys. She was rushed to the hospital where it was determined that a C-section was necessary to save her life and her unborn child. On December 23, Janelle gave birth to her daughter, Jaylee at 25 weeks and 6 days. She weighed 1 pound 6 ounces and measured 11.5 inches long.

The family celebrated its first Christmas with their newborn just a few days later. Janelle, who is a nurse, knew that her daughter wouldn’t be able to come with her when she left the hospital. “It was hard to go home without her, but we understood based on the circumstances of her being so tiny,” she said.

2After leaving the hospital, Janelle created Jaylee’s Journey Home Facebook page in honor of her daughter.

Everyone understood the potential challenges that Jaylee could face. “There are some problems that are typical or to be expected that can be overwhelming for families,” said Rebecca Ballard, MD, neonatologist at McLane Children’s. “It’s our job to help support the families to be ready to take them home.”

For four weeks, mother and daughter battled together. Janelle was recovering from the condition that almost took her life, and Jaylee was fighting to keep the life she started.   The bond between mother and child would not keep them apart for long. Janelle began making trips to the NICU. “The anticipation of getting to see her, you couldn’t get there fast enough,” said Janelle.

It was hard initially. With the support of husband Jason, her mother, family and friends, she pressed her way each time to be with her newborn. It was 101 days before Jaylee would get to leave the NICU. Janelle said it was filled with feelings of extreme happiness and protectiveness. Jaylee’s brothers, Jacob, Jaxson, Judson and half-sister Alexis would grow to love and adore her with each passing day as the infant settled in at home.

Janelle says watching Jaylee progress this year has been fun. Buying toys has been a joy because Jaylee is able to do more and more with them despite her size. She now weighs 14 pounds and the family celebrated her first birthday. Janelle also wanted to make the celebration special for others who might be experiencing similar circumstances at the NICU. “We made that decision last December and I thought about it off and on all year of what we could do,” said Janelle.

3She began planning in mid-November to deliver stockings and she requested donations on Jaylee’s Facebook page. Friends and family quickly offered to donate items.   Her brother’s mother-in-law made chocolate-covered pretzels and sent them from the Dallas area. A high school friend in Sugarland sent blankets. She received candy, gift cards, blankets, baby caps, journals, pens, hand sanitizers, lotions, chap stick, and snacks to give to children who would have to celebrate Christmas in the NICU.

It was an emotional time as Janelle and Jaylee visited the place where she spent her first Christmas last year. With armfuls of gifts stuffed with the donated items, her family and friends were thankful to meet with some of the staff who took care of Jaylee. “It was a surprise and very emotional moment to see Jaylee, especially to find out that she was visiting on her birthday,” said Isole Altott, Neonatal nurse at McLane Children’s NICU.

It was smiles all around, and Janelle hopes these gifts will offer support to the families at the NICU during this Christmas. To learn more about Jaylee, click here on Jaylee’s Journey Home Facebook page and to view the local news story, visit KWTX-TV.

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