‘Thankful for things that could be, but are not’ — Constable/fire fighter, wife welcome son home after month in NICU

Published 12:00 pm Friday, February 18, 2022

He turns one month old this weekend, but west Lincoln County resident Ross Porter’s homecoming has been widely celebrated.

His unique journey has been shared by his parents on social media daily since he was born mid-January. Ross is the fifth child — all boys — for Lincoln County Constable and Brookhaven Fire Fighter Kelly Porter and his wife Beverly.

Mom Beverly had a blood test screening during her 13th week of pregnancy to determine the baby’s gender. Results showed a 90 percent likelihood their child would have trisomy 21, the most common chromosomal anomaly in humans. A genetic condition caused by an extra chromosome, trisomy 21 is more commonly known as Down syndrome.

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“I was sent to a fetal specialist and had to have some higher-grade ultrasounds,” Beverly said. “They found a possible heart defect — VSD, or a hole in the heart.”

Ventricular Septal Defect is a birth defect in which there is a hole between the heart’s two chambers. A heart specialist confirmed it, so the Porters knew this was something they would have to address at the proper time.

They set a delivery date but baby Ross decided to come four weeks early, his mother said.

“He was fine. He was just having trouble breathing, but his color was perfect and everything else was perfect,” she said. Because the baby had not shown any other features of Down syndrome aside from the blood test, Beverly said no one ever mentioned it to them as a real possibility. But his features and a blood test confirmed Ross had the anomaly.

“Down syndrome is not a bad thing,” dad Kelly said. “People just need to be aware that people with Down syndrome are not different, really — they are wonderful, loving people who just have to be given a chance.”

Though Down syndrome and VSD both require specialized attention of some sort, the Porters have not been discouraged. Rather, they have been greatly encouraged not only the prayers and voiced support “even from people we don’t know,” Kelly said, but by complications that were not present.

“A lot of times with Down syndrome babies, they have really low muscle tone,” Kelly said. “But he was very strong, fighting the nurses and the doctor. A lot are born with obstructed bowels, but he didn’t have that. He’s got a heart issue, but we’re thankful for how healthy he is.”

The VSD causes pulmonary hypertension — too much oxygenated blood going to the lungs — which affected his breathing. Along with needing high-flow oxygen the majority of his time in the NICU due to his lungs not being fully developed, Ross is on medications to help with those issues now that he is home.

Once Ross reaches a weight of at least 20 pounds, he’ll be scheduled for heart surgery to repair the hole between the chambers. His cardiologist says there is some evidence the hole is closing “on its own” already, however.

“It’s a moderate-to-large size hole. The doctor said there is evidence of tissue growth — that it’s trying to heal. We’re still praying,” Kelly said. “That would be awesome.”

The Porters are doing lots of research and talking to other parents of children with Down syndrome, learning what they need to do as mom and dad to help Ross in the best way possible.
“It’s not anything we can’t handle with family and God to see us through,” Kelly said. “He can have a very happy, productive life on his own, but will need different types of interventions like physical therapy and speech therapy. We’re just studying and researching, trying to learn everything we can to help benefit him.”

Ross’ older brothers are happy to have him home and just see him as a little brother, his parents said.

“We’re very optimistic. We’re just ecstatic to have him home,” said Kelly. “We know in time God is going to heal him, whether it’s through surgery or ‘on its own.’ We are so thankful for things that could be, that are not.”