Monica Ann Cooper is a sweet little baby with her whole life ahead of her.
"I already can see her 20 years down the road; I think I know what she's going to be like," said Sara Cooper, Monica's mother.
At six months old, Monica's parents can barely take their eyes off her. All babies are special but considering the start little Monica had, someone was definitely looking out for her.
"We had a lot of prayers for her. I know that's why she is where she's at," said Sara.
Monica came into this world early, very early. Sara was only 24 weeks along when some nagging symptoms became too great to ignore.
"I noticed some swelling in funky places and I wasn't sure if it was normal or not," said Sara.
Combine that with rapid weight gain, high blood pressure, and excruciating headaches and Sara's doctor knew this uneventful pregnancy had just turned into an emergency.
Sara was diagnosed with a severe case of preeclampsia, a serious condition that can put mom and baby at risk. Sara and her husband Adam checked into CHI Health Bergan Mercy where they quickly ruled out bed rest as an option.
"At that point I was afraid it was my life or hers," said Sara.
"Certainly the signs and symptoms were there - this was a pretty bad situation and we needed to fix it as soon as possible," Monica's husband, Adam said.
Fixing it - meant delivering Monica by c-section. Sara was only 26 weeks along.
"It was scary, but I knew that's what we needed to do," said Adam.
Monica was born October 8th, 2012 – three and a half months early.
"The first time I saw her she looked kind of alien like; born at that stage they don't look normal. She was very red, extremely small - one pound eight ounces - you think is she going to make it; is she going to be healthy," said Adam.
Monica's special needs would require the skilled team from Bergan's level three Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). She was alive, but a premature infant in her condition needs round the clock care to grow and thrive. The team went to work immediately.
"She kept us on our toes; she did have a very rough course the first several weeks to months of her life. We would say it's a miracle she survived the day. That was our goal – take it one day at a time. She was so touchy on everything we were trying to do for her. We had to reach deep in our pockets to find things Monica would cooperate with," said Brenda Wallingford, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner.
Monica would spend the next four months in the NICU -the first month, on a ventilator.
"We have learned so much in the care of a premature baby so we can minimize those long term problems," Wallingford said.
Adam and Sara credit prayer and the skilled team at Bergan Mercy for Monica's milestones.
"Thank God for today's technology and for the medical staff and all of their expertise; a baby like this wouldn't have made it years ago," Adam said.
Just look at Monica - stretching now – rolling over is next. Given how early she was born she's doing remarkably well.
"Medically speaking, she has some reflux which is kind of the only issue with her," Adam said.
"It will take a couple of years to get her caught up developmentally," Sara said.
Today at six months Monica weighs eight pounds.
"A lot of people tell us they would never know she was a preemie," Sara said.
Monica is the center of Sara and Adam's world. Hard to imagine that just six months ago, her future was so uncertain.
"It was hard picturing her turning into the baby she is now - but she did it," Adam said.