Healthy You - Every Day

The Life of Riley

Follow a Premature Baby's Journey


Every day, Regina Wagner is a champion for premature babies, helping to arrange the annual March of Dimes’ Walk for Babies. Last fall, she became the mother of a premature baby herself. The final seven weeks of her pregnancy and the first few days following her son Riley’s birth were tense. Now Riley is home with his mom and dad, Cullin Wagner, and thriving. Here’s a look at Regina and Riley’s journey.

Week 20

Regina Wagner gets news she doesn’t want to hear. Riley’s growth is restricted. He’s two weeks behind the normal growth pattern and is at risk for being stillborn. “My bubble burst,” she says. “I was devastated.”

Week 27

Tests show a disruption in umbilical flow, meaning Riley isn’t getting enough oxygen or nutrients. “There comes a time when babies reassure us by telling us they’re doing well, and a time when the testing is no longer normal and they tell us they’d be better off outside,” says obstetrician-gynecologist Alexandria George, DO, with Lehigh Valley Health Network. Riley is saying it’s time. “I was put on immediate bed rest,” Regina says. “I quickly went home for some clothing and a toothbrush.”

Oct. 9, 2012

Riley’s declining heart rate forces Regina to have an emergency C-section. Riley Wagner is born.

Weight 1 lb ¼ oz

Riley’s birth weight. He is transferred to Children’s Hospital at Lehigh Valley Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and placed in an incubator. “It was the start of three months of NICU care,” says health network neonatologist Nachammai Chinnakaruppan, MD. “He did very well at each step.”

87 days

Riley received continuous daily, weekly and monthly tests for potential brain, lung and intestinal issues. “At his birth I was so scared, I was convulsing,” Regina says. “Yet I had faith in the NICU staff. They are so wonderful. When Riley heard my voice and opened his eyes, I knew it would be OK.” His doctors watched for respiratory problems and to make sure Riley received proper nutrition. He begins bottle-feeding very early and soon he’s acting like a regular baby.

Jan. 5, 2013

Riley comes home to Macungie for the first time. “I’ll never forget how we felt that day,” Regina says. “We haven’t really slept since, and we couldn’t be happier about it.”

Weight 6 ½ lbs

Riley’s weight on Feb. 4, 2013. “He’ll catch up to full-term children in about one to two years,” Chinnakaruppan says. “While we’ll continue to watch for any potential problems, most of what Riley has done, he’s accomplished by himself.”

Explore More Articles