Gavin is 16 years old and loves to work with his hands. He enjoys tearing things apart in order to build them up again. He is involved in 4H and FFA, shows cattle, and has an interest in photography.
Gavin looks and acts like a normal kid, but he was born at just 24 weeks gestation, making him a “micro-premie,” and one of the smallest babies delivered a Blank Children’s Hospital. Gavin’s mom, Crystal, was hospitalized at Iowa Methodist Medical Center due to high blood pressure (HELLP Syndrome). The day Gavin was born was a whirlwind. The night before Gavin was born, everything looked fine but things quickly changed. Due to bleeding risks and complications, an emergency cesarean section was needed and Gavin was born 16 weeks early in August 2003.
“After waking from anesthesia, I remember asking how many pounds he was and the nurse said ‘Oh honey, no pounds! Only 15 ounces!” said Crystal. “I waited almost two days before I could even get a glimpse of him. When I first saw him he was so tiny. He wasn’t much bigger than a pop can and his fingers and toes were like tic-tacs.”
When he was two weeks old, Crystal received a phone call from the neonatologist saying that Gavin was on the highest vent settings and wasn’t doing well. The family rushed to the hospital, which was an hour away. The staff prepared them for saying goodbye to Gavin.
“I headed to the chapel to have a little heart-to-heart with God. I said ‘If this isn’t where he is supposed to be, I will understand. Please take him. We want him here with us, but he is tired and we are tired. We don’t want to see him suffer’,” said Crystal. “They went to get a recliner so we could hold him for the first time and last time, to hold him as he peacefully passed away.”
As the medical team explained the details of unhooking Gavin from the various machines and medicines, Crystal remembered a medical journal the staff had given to her about steroids. She asked if the steroids could be administered as a final attempt to save his life. The team explained the extremely high risks with giving such a tiny baby the steroids.
“We knew it was risky and could have caused a brain bleed or worse, but we decided to try something and take the risk, instead of always wondering what might have happened,” said Crystal. “We are glad we took that risk because within a matter of hours, Gavin stabilized. He was still in critical condition, but was stable.”
Gavin spent 111 days in the NICU at Blank Children's. It was a constant roller coaster of bad days, terrible days and amazing days. Now, at 16 years old, Gavin is full of energy and life. The Pote family has spent the last 15 years walking for the March of Dimes and raising nearly $50,000 to help save premature babies like Gavin. This past Christmas they delivered blankets to the NICU with an uplifting note to brighten the spirits of the families in the NICU during the holiday season.
“Gavin is a go-getter. When he wants something done, he will get it done,” said Crystal. “Gavin has been a fighter since day one and I am so proud of him.”