"Preemie’ opens community’s heart to couple | VailDaily.com

"Preemie’ opens community’s heart to couple

Scott N. Miller/Eagle Correspondent

Kayla and Chip Roper.

In the first week of October, Kayla, director of the preschool at Gypsum Elementary School, was cruising through her pregnancy, six months along and looking forward to her Jan. 10 due date. She and the baby were both healthy, and things were looking good.

On Oct. 10, Kayla went into premature labor. Doctors at Vail Valley Medical Center got her contractions controlled enough so she could be taken by helicopter to Presbyterian/Saint Luke’s Hospital in Denver. On Oct. 12, Kayla gave birth to a baby boy, Colin.

Born about three months premature and weighing just more than two pounds, Colin’s sudden arrival dramatically changed his parents’ lives. First, there was fear.

Ironically, Kayla, an early childhood development specialist, was in the midst of a graduate-level course detailing the stages of a baby’s development in the womb. She knew that getting a baby past 28 weeks of gestation is crucial for the development of its brain, lungs and numerous other functions. Colin was born at about 27 weeks. Doctors were able to successfully administer a pair of steroid shots to Kayla within the 48-hour period before the baby’s birth to spur development of Colin’s lungs. Still, there were many more questions than answers at first.

The answer to virtually every question so far has been positive. On Nov. 21, Colin had doubled his birth weight, and had just passed a breathing test.

“Our son was just born early,” said Kayla. “There wasn’t anything wrong with him other than that. If there’s a definition of a miracle baby, he’s it.”

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The early birth has kept Colin at the hospital in Denver. He’ll likely remain there for another week or two, then will be transferred to Vail Valley Medical Center before finally coming home to Gypsum.

The Ropers have been spending most of their time in Denver since the baby’s birth. The response from this community has given Kayla and Chip a new perspective about the valley. Churches, businesses, neighbors, strangers, and friends have been eager to help out.

A fund-raising event was organized. Somebody put the Ropers in touch with the Vail Valley Charitable Fund, which offers financial help for local residents who are dealing with exhaustive medical bills.

“It’s so overwhelming,” said Kayla.

Further complicating their lives was the fact that Kayla and Chip were scheduled to move from Edwards to Gypsum on Nov. 1. While the Ropers were in Denver, a group of friends and acquaintances helped them pack up the household and move.

“It took us about seven hours to get it all done,” said Chip. Friends and acquaintances have been generous in offering all kinds of help.

“We’re thankful in our hearts, minds and souls for everything,” said Kayla.

Even now, the Ropers are working to pay back all of that kindness.

The pediatric unit at Presbyterian/Saint Luke’s draws families from other states. The Ropers, who often end up with two cars down at the hospital, are quick to offer other families rides around Denver when needed.

Chip has made some good friends among the other dads at the hospital.

“Your friends quickly become your family,” notes Chip, “If anyone has anything like this happen to them, I’m going to help any way I can; I’ll be happy to tell them everything we’ve gone through.”

This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.