Published 10:48 pm Wednesday, April 15, 2015
The tattoos on Matt Fisher’s forearm are reminders of what were at once two of the most exciting and terrifying moments of his life.
One set of footprints is his son Peyton’s at six weeks old. Now 6, he was born at 15 inches long, weighing 3 pounds.
Next to those, the larger set of footprints is Landon’s, now 2, taken right before he was admitted into the neonatal intensive-care unit after also arriving early.
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“Once they’re yours, they’re yours, it doesn’t matter what’s wrong with them or how long they are going to be around,” Matt Fisher, 30, reflected on his ink.
His wife, Amanda Fisher, 27, who herself was six weeks premature, said her pregnancy with Peyton was normal until she went into labor at 29 ½ weeks.
Living in Farmville — where the couple also lived while pregnant with Landon, before moving to Suffolk — she was sent to a Richmond hospital.
“They tried to stop it for four days, and then he just came at 30 weeks,” she said. “He spent six weeks in the NICU there.”
At 10 days, Peyton developed necrotizing enterocolitis, where intestinal tissue begins to die off. It can easily be fatal, but Peyton responded to antibiotics.
“I remember losing my cool,” Matt Fisher said. “They couldn’t feed him. I have never been so mad at a doctor in my life.”
The Fishers lived 2 ½ hours from the hospital. They couldn’t afford to stop working. The driving back-and-forth two or three days a week took a toll, Amanda Fisher said.
“Emotionally it was tough. Financially it was tough, having to pay gas, hotels and all that,” she said. “Matt was in the Army, and I worked at a bank as a teller.”
After Peyton, Amanda Fisher’s pregnancy with Landon was considered high-risk from the outset.
At 34 weeks, she received her last weekly injection of a hormone that’s supposed to encourage a full-term delivery and which doctors didn’t think she was producing enough of naturally.
Landon was born a week later. “He was wheezing bad,” Amanda Fisher said.
Twenty-four hours after the birth, the parents were called in to make a decision: keep Landon in the regular hospital, or send him to the NICU. They opted for the latter, and he spent a week there.
“As soon as he got there, the improvement was 100-percent,” Matt Fisher said.
“They put him on a CPAP machine when the team came from UVA to pick him up,” recalled Amanda Fisher.
The Fishers have a display box with some key reminders of Peyton’s early arrival, including a tiny diaper, a tiny blood-pressure cuff, a tiny skullcap and a massive hospital bill — for $141,000. Luckily, the then-enlisted Matt Fisher’s health insurance took care of it.
Matt Fisher said they never did get a reason for the early arrival of either of their boys.
Amanda Fisher said she had walked in the March of Dimes’ March for Babies where she was from prior to getting married, and they were an ambassador family in Farmville three years ago.
“It’s also the relationship that you form with other families, passing your stories back and forth,” she said of why she joined the cause.
“Some aren’t as fortunate; they have lost a baby, and it’s reassuring to know others have been through a similar situation.”
The Fishers are co-ambassadors for this year’s march in Suffolk, scheduled to be held at Constant’s Wharf on April 25 from 10 a.m. Registration is at 9 a.m.
Registrations can be made online at www.marchofdimes.org. For more information, call 361-0000.