This little girl has been breaking glass ceilings since the day she waltzed into this world at only 23 weeks gestation. She knew she had big things to accomplish and just couldn’t wait to get started. So, on January 8, 2020 Crystal and Alex Odom got to meet their heavyweight champion fighter of a daughter, Everleigh. She came out kicking, but her tiny little lungs weren’t as ready as she was to be out in the world, so she had to be bagged for about 10 minutes, and then intubated and put on a ventilator. Everleigh, being the fierce fighter she is, pulled her breathing tube out around 3 times.
As is the case with most pre-term babies, Everleigh faced her fair share of challenges. She needed a tracheostomy due to long term mechanical ventilation. She also needed a g-tube for nutrition. At this point, she was transferred from UAB to Children’s of Alabama. She developed pulmonary hypertension for a short time, bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) , and cerebral palsy. None of these issues slowed her down at all. If anything, they made her even feistier.
In December, 2020 Everleigh had made so much progress, Crystal and Alex were in the home stretch of bringing her home. They entered the home vent program in February 2021, where they would receive all of the training and education they needed to be able to care for Everleigh on their own at home. They completed weeks of learning how to care for the trach, how to handle trach emergencies, CPR training, how to care for her g-tube, how to give her long list of medications, how to change the disposable parts of the ventilator, and several other things just to bring their girl home.
Then in March, 2021 it was finally my turn to meet the Odom’s. I had to complete the home inspection, which is simply making sure the home is a safe environment to have a large amount of medical equipment, working smoke alarms, easy access to enter and exit the house for emergency personnel, and safe electrical outlets. They passed with flying colors and I instantly knew this baby would thrive once she was able to come home. She also had an older sister that was ready to start her big sister duties.
One of their last steps of there home journey was to train with me on all of their home equipment. This included the ventilator, oxygen, suction, and a monitor for her heart rate and oxygen levels. Oh and they also had to learn how to leave the house with all of that equipment plus a 14 month old baby, and her sister. No big deal right? They also had a 7 page care plan to follow for her once they got home.
Luckily they got some practice doing an out-of-hospital outing to slowly learn what it’s like packing up Everleigh and all of her accessories. Then, they started the very last step of getting that big beautiful stack of discharge papers, they had to room in over the weekend using all of her equipment and giving her therapies and medications like they would if they were at home. On Monday, March 15, 2021, Everleigh busted out of Children’s Hospital after being there for 215 days.
Since being home, Everleigh has plowed through her milestones. She has decreased her oxygen usage to only when she needs it, which is rare. She only needs her ventilator when she is asleep. She has started to take small tastes of food by mouth, which is a HUGE accomplishment for trach babies. She has started preschool! Thanks to PT, Everleigh is an unstoppable force in her walker. What cerebral palsy? She is truly extraordinary, and I’m so blessed to be allowed to watch her progress and thrive!
It won’t be much longer and Everleigh will be looking to ditch that ventilator and even the trach not long after that. To say I’m proud of this fierce little girl would be an understatement. She has moved so many mountains since she was born, I can’t wait to see what she does as she continues to grow.
The Odom’s were also nominated by their speech therapist to join Alabama’s Early Intervention System Governor’s Interagency Coordinating Council. Crystal will serve on the parent advisory council for 2022-2023. These nominees are appointed by the governor and the council must include 20% providers of early intervention services and 20% parents of infants or children with disabilities aged 12 or younger. This council decides what is working in the system, where the funds should go during the fiscal year and to give real life advice to parents and providers in the state.