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Defying the Odds

Graham Murphy was born on Nov. 5, 2002. At birth, he weighed only 1 pound, 10 ounces. For 120 days, baby Graham would receive around-the-clock care from the staff of the Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas in an effort to overcome the odds — as well as the side effects of being severely premature.

Graham Murphy spent 120 days in the NICU at Texas Health Dallas.
Graham Murphy, who now enjoys playing baseball, spent 120 days in the NICU at Texas Health Dallas.

For Sara Murphy, reminiscing about her pregnancy and delivery with baby Graham is bittersweet. On the one hand, she can now revel in the joy of having a spirited, kind-hearted ten year old. But, looking back also brings memories of her near-death experience and the pain of having to watch her newborn son struggle.

For all intents and purposes, Sara’s pregnancy may best be described as a miracle. After a long road with fertility specialists and no success, Sara, who was 29 at the time, and her husband, Patrick, 32, conceived naturally and her pregnancy progressed without any major hiccups — until week 20.

She gained 11 pounds of fluid in three days and her blood pressure began to skyrocket. By week 23, Sara was on bed rest; by week 25 she was hospitalized.

“I remember being told by my obstetrician that I wouldn’t be going home pregnant,” Sara said. “I was devastated, but I settled in on the high-risk neonatal unit at Texas Health Dallas for what I thought would be two to three months. I would soon learn that was a very wrong assumption.”

Although sonograms showed that baby Graham was “looking fine and practicing breathing,” Sara and her husband were openly briefed by the medical staff on what to expect with a premature birth. The couple found comfort in the fact that Sara was being cared for in the hospital’s Margot Perot Center for Women and Infants, the second largest delivery center in Dallas and one well-equipped to handle her high-risk pregnancy. When Sara began to experience significant pain, she knew what was coming but pleaded with the OB nurses to do something other than prep for delivery. The response was that she was dying, and this was the only option.

An emergency C-section was performed and baby Graham came out crying. Sara worked to heal as she and her husband watched their tiny son for the next four months slowly gain strength in the NICU, surrounded by a multidisciplinary team of neonatologists, pediatric radiologists, surgeons and other specialists on the medical staff. The couple would also gain strength with help from the experienced and compassionate team.

“The NICU staff held us up at every turn,” Sara remembered. “The social worker was beyond helpful to us. The doctors on the medical staff  were there to explain and make decisions. The respiratory therapists soothed Graham’s difficult breathing, and the nurses filled in gaps we didn’t even know existed. They stood quietly by our sides while we wept. They encouraged. They empathized. And, yes, they cried too.

“The staff used their expertise to care for our son in ways that we could not. They held team meetings with us to discuss progress and the future. There was rarely much good news, yet they delivered it with hope attached.”

Today, Graham has a black belt in taekwondo and loves playing baseball. He continues to spend time in doctor’s offices and he remains small for his age, but his mother adds that the smallness is only on the outside of this miracle child. 

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