Kailey Matthews


Biography Index

10/5/2003 EARLY ARRIVAL: Kailey gets past tough start, shows fighting spirit
Kailey Matthews was a mere 14.6 ounces at birth. Today, she's at home with her parents and doing well. Courtesy photo

In her brief five months on earth, Kailey Michelle Matthews has been through a lot. A mere 14.6 ounces at birth, Kailey has fought valiantly against the odds faced by premature babies.

"She's amazing," said paternal grandfather, David Matthews.

"She has a tough temperament, and a great will to survive."

Kailey's parents are Allen Matthews, who graduated from Dawson High School in 1999, and Casey Shifflett Matthews, who graduated from Italy High School in 2000. Allen and Casey saw each other at horse shows and rodeos, because Allen roped, and Casey was involved in barrel racing. They began dating when Casey was 14 and Allen 15, and were married in August of 2000.

Following their wedding, the couple moved to Waco, where Allen went to work for the Texas Department of Transportation while attending Texas State Technical College, and Casey went to work as a hairstylist in a salon in Hewitt.

In November of 2002, the Matthews discovered a baby was expected, and announced it to their pleased families at Thanksgiving. Casey's parents, Donna and Dennis Shifflett, reside in the Frost area, while David and Vickie Matthews, Allen's parents, reside in Dawson.

By January, Casey had developed high blood pressure, and had to be confined to bed rest. Working at the salon was no longer an option.

"I could only get up to go to the bathroom," Casey said. "I had to stay off my feet at all times."

Casey was in and out of the hospital from January through April, when she spent a week in the hospital with doctors running tests, trying to control her blood pressure, and watching her liver and kidneys trying to shut down.

Finally, the doctors at Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center told Allen and Casey's mom, Donna, that Casey would die unless they took the baby. At that time, the baby was at 24 weeks gestation.

A Caesarean section was performed on April 14, and tiny Kailey Michelle Matthews entered the world at 14.6 ounces, and 10 inches long.

"She was the smallest baby at Hillcrest in Waco to survive," David Matthews said.

"This was something that had to be done," Donna said. "They really had no choice."

Kailey spent her first nine days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of Hillcrest under the care of Dr. Darrell Wheeler. Casey spent a week in the hospital herself due to the still-high blood pressure, and the toxemia causing swelling in her legs.

By the 10th day, Kailey had developed necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), which is a condition that damages the intestines of newborns, and especially preemies.

"She was transported to Cook Children's Hospital in Fort Worth on April 24," Casey said. "Fortunately, they were able to treat the NEC without surgery by using antibiotics, and it cleared up.

"Of the numerous things that could go wrong with a premature infant, she has not had a single surgery."

While many preemies have the problem of their retinas detaching, Kailey's eyes have been perfect her entire life.

"The doctor said she doesn't have to come back until she is in kindergarten," Casey said.

After a month in Fort Worth, during which time Casey never left her side, Kailey returned to Hillcrest in Waco weighing one pound, 11 ounces. Since she was still on the ventilator, she continued to be monitored at the hospital, but returning to Hillcrest allowed the Matthews to be back at home.

"She went to Harris Methodist one time for about 13 hours -- Cook's was full, so the doctors from Cook's came across the street to Harris to put in a central line, in order to administer medications and IV fluids," Casey said.

Kailey was removed from the ventilator on July 4, Independence Day.

"I thought that was so cool," Casey said.

Her first bottle feeding occurred on August 14. She weighed 3 pounds, 7 ounces.

"A lot of babies come home with a line in their stomachs to feed them," Casey said. "Kailey nipple-fed, which was amazing. She never had any problems feeding."

September 10 was a red-letter day when Kailey was finally allowed to go home, weighing 4 pounds, 8 ounces. She was still on oxygen and a heart monitor, but Casey was trained in how to care for her at home.

"I learned a lot over the five months," Casey said.

Casey has no plans to return to work soon. Kailey will need to be kept at home for the foreseeable future.

"The baby is real susceptible to colds, because they could turn into pneumonia," Casey said. "Preemies can get RSV, which would put her back in the hospital.

"She has to go to a pediatric pulmonologist once a month, for the next 6 months. We're not even coming home (to Corsicana) for Christmas -- it is so important to keep her home."

Casey thinks Kailey may not get to visit Corsicana until her first birthday, since they plan to keep her at home through the winter cold season. Meanwhile, having been on the news in Waco and featured in the Waco paper, Kailey is a little celebrity.

"There were more prayers than you can possibly imagine from Corsicana, Texas," Donna said.

"She was on a lot of prayer lists -- we all were -- she's a little fighter.

"One of Casey's goals is to start a support group for parents of premature infants at Hillcrest," Donna said. "She doesn't want anyone to feel as lost as she did.

"Hillcrest just welcomed us to their family."

Today, Casey has returned to normal, and Kailey weighs 5 pounds, 1 ounce, and is 17 1/2 inches long. Casey is grateful to her mom, who stayed with her through the entire ordeal, and is appreciative of all the prayers.

"Everybody was praying for her -- even people we didn't know," Casey said.

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Edward L. Williams