Baby born on cruise ship beats the odds

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A Utah woman who gave birth to a one-and-a-half pound baby boy four months premature during a Caribbean cruise has revealed how she kept him alive with the help of the ship's medical staff and a makeshift incubator.

Emily Morgan, 28, of Ogden, Utah, told the Associated Press her son was due in December, but contractions began Aug. 31 during a seven-day cruise around the eastern Caribbean. Her doctor approved the cruise to celebrate her daughter Chloe's third birthday, Morgan said.

The pregnancy had been uneventful, so she was shocked when the contractions began just past the halfway mark in her pregnancy. She initially thought they might be false labor, but she and her husband called medical staff when they saw blood. A doctor aboard the Royal Caribbean ship told her she couldn't give birth because they were still 14 hours from the nearest port in Puerto Rico. But holding back wasn't an option, Morgan said.

"I knew the baby was coming," she said.

After the delivery, she said the doctors told her she had miscarried and she should get some rest, but she insisted on seeing the baby. About 45 minutes later, medical staff said the baby had survived but wasn't expected to live long.

"I had felt him kicking. I felt the process of him getting bigger," she said. "I said, `I'm going to see him, I don't care if he's alive or if he's dead."'

They brought her to her newborn son, who was wrapped in towels wet from the birth. He was wearing a tiny oxygen mask on his face.

"He was crying, like a little feeble cry," she said. Along with his healthy pink coloring, it was a positive sign that his lungs were relatively strong.

As the hours went on, she insisted he be wrapped in fresh, dry towels, and she helped staff tuck microwaved saline packets around him to create a makeshift incubator. They used a sanitary napkin to keep his head warm and tried to avoid touching his sensitive skin.

Meanwhile, the captain was speeding the boat to Puerto Rico, and it arrived about two hours early. It was none too soon -- black spots were starting to appear on Haiden's fingers, indicating his circulation was starting to fade.

Two ambulances rushed the family to a hospital, and they were transferred to a children's hospital in Miami a few days later.

Haiden is making good progress, Morgan said Thursday. He's being fed breast milk through a syringe into a tube in his stomach -- 2 tablespoons at a time over the course of 90 minutes. The family hopes Haiden will be strong enough to be transported to a Utah hospital at the end of October, where the plan is for him to be hospitalized until his December 19 due date.

"On a daily basis they tell us he's a miracle baby and that he wants to be here," Morgan told Utah station KSL.

The mounting medical bills are an issue for the family, and they are accepting online donations to help pay for the cost of the baby's premature arrival.

It's not totally clear what caused Morgan to go into early labor, though doctors have said it might have been related to dehydration, an elevation change or the differing temperatures at sea, she said.

A baby like Haiden born so early and so far from a hospital has a less-than-10 percent chance of survival, said Dr. Bradley Yoder, medical director of the newborn intensive care unit at the University of Utah.

Babies born months premature are typically whisked into intensive care immediately and given medication to help them breathe.

"I'm surprised the baby survived, to be honest," Yoder said.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.