INDIANAPOLIS — On Wednesday, staff at an Indiana hospital lined a hallway to send the Jurnakins family home.
It was a moment 460 days in the making.
"I think I'm very overwhelmed, but I'm happy. This was a low, low journey. I just can't wait to get my baby home with me and my family," Sparkle Jurnakins said.
Kendall Jurnakins was born at 25 weeks in December of 2020 due to his mom's pregnancy-induced hypertension. He was just 15 ounces.
"This is the longest baby that we have stayed in the NICU," said Dr. Taha Ben Saad, medical director at Ascension St Vincent Women's NICU.
“He could fit in the palm of your hand. He was only 15 ounces when he was born. And he’s grown into quite the young little toddler, crawling around and making everyone happy in the unit," NICU PA Adrian Brunson said.
Kendall's time in the NICU was described as "a roller coaster". He battled various complications.
Kendall is going home💙— Nikki DeMentri (@nikkidementri) March 16, 2022
He was born just 15oz. at 25 weeks and 460 days later, he went home today!
Kendall spent the longest time a baby has ever spent in Ascension St. Vincent Women's Hospital's NICU.@wrtv pic.twitter.com/5j42AM4n7A
The team in the NICU said Kendall quickly became part of their family. At one point, they bought him scrubs, so he could go to work with them.
"It's a village to care for those baby is not only like the doctor or the nurse. It's the doctor, the nurse, we have nurse practitioners or physician assistants, respiratory therapists, all other therapists, dietitians, housekeeping unit — they all are part of that team. And it takes all that team for the baby to come to this point," Saad said.
While in the NICU, Kendall learned how to crawl and got his first tooth.
“It’s mixed emotions. I’m so excited for them, I’m so sad to see him go home, but it’s an amazing accomplishment to be able to take care of these babies from when they’re very little until they’re going home with their families under one roof," Brunson said.
During Kendall's stay in the hospital, mom, Sparkle, contracted COVID-19. She spent time in hospital from August to October last year.
"COVID is no joke. Everybody in my family was like, thinking it wasn't real. But once you have it, you know it's — I'm still fighting. I have the trach. My life is different 100% I don't go anywhere now," Sparkle said.
The Indianapolis mom spent time in a coma and in the ICU with the virus. She is living with a trach now as she continues to recover.
"It was hard. Some nights I cried to sleep. Because I didn't have my baby home," Sparkle said.
Wednesday marked a new chapter for them both as their family is all now at home. Doctors expect Kendall’s feeding tube and trach to be taken out in the next few years, and a positive outcome for Kendall.
"This moment, actually, I have no words. It's like such a reward for all of us. As I said, we waited for this day for a long time. And it's such a reward. And then after all those long days, long nights, this is the best day for us. We forget everything else. As we all say — we see some losses, but we see a lot of successes like this. And this is one of the successes that we are proud of," Saad said.
Sparkle says she plans on holding her baby boy nonstop and is thankful not only for the team at the NICU but also for the support of her husband and family.
"Everything he went through from being sick to surgery, he's fought. So I fight for him. I fought because he fights. He made us all strong," Sparkle said.
She also said she cannot wait to introduce Kendall to the family. He joins a big brother and sister, as well as his dad.
Nikki DeMentri and Michelle Kaufman at WRTV first reported this story.