‘Micro-preemie’ leaves hospital after nearly a year
A baby boy from Isanti, who weighed just 1 pound at birth, was able to go home Tuesday after spending 341 days in the hospital.
Brave Lee was born at 22 weeks gestation last May as a rare “micro-preemie.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 0.13% of babies in the United States are born weighing less than 1 pound, 1 ounce.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS first shared Lee’s story last summer.
We were there as Brave was discharged from Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis on Tuesday morning, wearing a onesie that read: “I am proof that God answers prayers.”
“I just can’t even believe the day is finally here,” said Brave’s mother Shacreya Lee. “It’s like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.”
Brave spent almost the entire first year of his life in the hospital, enduring more than 20 surgeries, including two heart procedures and double laser eye surgery.
“From day one, when he weighed 1 pound, the ultimate goal was just for him to survive,” said Nick Lee, Brave’s father.
The Lees have been driving nearly an hour to and from the hospital for the past year and made the daily drive for the last time Tuesday.
“To have him home is surreal,” Nick Lee said.
The Lees said Brave could have gone home four to six weeks ago, but he needs 24-hour home nursing care and there is currently a shortage of home health nurses.
According to the Minnesota Home Care Association, these nurses are practicing at an ICU level but are paid 35-50% less than nurses in the hospital.
MHCA Executive Director Kathy Messerli told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the lack of home care nurses translates to extended hospitalizations for patients, at a time when hospitals are already overwhelmed. She said children are remaining in the hospital, medically ready for discharge and waiting for nursing, for an 90 extra days, which marks a 40-day increase from a study published in 2016.
State lawmakers are trying to address this widespread issue.
The Human Services Finance Bill in both the Minnesota House and Senate includes a measure that would increase payment rates for home care services, which would allow these agencies to boost pay for home care nurses and, in turn, retain and recruit staff.
The House bill includes a 15.8% rate increase, while the Senate’s version has a 55% increase.
The Minnesota House passed its version of the Human Services budget proposal Tuesday night in a 70-60 vote. It now returns to the Senate.
Brave is receiving home nursing care from Bayada, which told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS it boosted pay by about $5 an hour at the beginning of the year, out of the company’s own bottom line, in the hopes of attracting more home care nurses.
Because of Brave’s story, the company has hired six additional nurses with the new rates.
Bayada provided 5 EYEWITNESS News the following statement:
“BAYADA works to advocate for our caregivers and families across the state that need home care. We are asking legislators to understand how the home care nursing workforce shortage affects their communities and what they can do to help alleviate the shortage and its effects on families like Brave’s. The MN legislature is currently considering a rate increase for home care services – which, if passed, would be extremely helpful in helping home care providers like BAYADA to better compete for more quality, reliable nurses. It’s critical that the legislators understand the impact the current low funding formula has had on patients who currently can’t access the care they need to stay at home. With adequate funding, home care agencies would be able to attract and hire more nurses, and there would be fewer stories like Brave’s – where children are stuck in NICUs and hospitals waiting to access care. BAYADA and many advocates are urging the legislature to pass the Senate’s version of the House Health and Human Services Omnibus bill.”
The Lees said they are grateful for the home care nursing staff that is allowing Brave to finally go home and start the next chapter in his life.
He will need 24-hour nursing care for at least the next two weeks. The hours may decrease from there based on Brave’s needs.
Brave is still currently on a ventilator but is medically stable. He now weighs 18 pounds.
“As far as we know, he’ll be a normal grown kid,” Shacreya Lee said. “He is a miracle.”
The Lees hope Brave’s story will inspire anyone going through a difficult time to continue having hope for the future.
“It’s just that perseverance, pushing through the hardest things, and Brave still finds a way to smile,” Nick Lee said. “Sometimes it feels lonely, feels like there’s no hope, so we like to share his story, that there is hope.”
If you would like to help the Lees with medical expenses for Brave, click here.