By Tom LaVenture
A Jamestown baby born four months premature has come a long way in his first nine months of life, and though there are challenges ahead, the likelihood of growing into a healthy child is very good, say his parents and physical therapist.
“He is a true miracle in every sense of the word,” said Robert Dickenson, father of Johnathan Fredrick Dickenson, who was dubbed the “miracle child” as a 1-pound, 2-ounce infant born four months premature in September 2015. The emergency cesarean section nearly took the life of his mother, Sarah, who has since recovered.
Johnathan remained at Sanford Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Fargo until February. His weight was around 7 pounds at the time, but he still required oxygen to help frail lungs and to prevent possible infection from a weak immune system.
Now at 9 months, Johnathan weighs around 15 pounds and is completely off his oxygen and monitoring of his breathing and heart rate.
“He’s been off the oxygen since March, and he’s starting to sleep through the night,” Robert said. I”m guessing it (his immune system) is pretty strong now; since he has been home he has only had one cold.”
As a premature infant with prolonged incubation in pure oxygen, Johnathan was also at risk for blindness. His checkups with the optometrist have ceased with no ongoing problems, Robert said.
“The only concern now is fitting him for a helmet to correct a flat spot on his skull,” he said.
The flat spot formed from having to lay in his incubator a certain way, Robert said.
Whitney Trautman, his physical therapist at Anne Carlsen Center in Jamestown, said she is working with Johnathan on strengthening and stretching neck muscles to overcome torticollis, a tightness of his neck muscles on one side causing a head tilt. Premature babies often don’t have the same muscle strength and development as a full-term baby, she said.
“He gets pretty tired but he has never once gotten upset,” Trautman said. “He tolerates every session. He’s always smiling.”
Once Johnathan’s neck has equal strength on both sides he can be fit with a helmet to address his plagiocephaly, a flattening of one area of the skull that if not corrected could cause health problems later with hearing, sight and temporomandibular joint issues such as snapping and popping of the jaw or teeth problems, she said.
“Babies have a soft spot on the top of the head when they are born, where the skull bones haven’t closed back together,” Trautman said. “He still has plenty of time so we can reshape and remold the head.”
The severity of Johnathan’s skull condition meets the insurance requirements to cover the helmet, she said.
For now the therapy at home is keep Johnathan looking left to stretch those muscles, Robert said. He is also adjusting to sleeping with his right side down and on his belly.
Sarah has started her day care business again which allows her to work while staying at home with Johnathan and his 18-month-old sister, Elsa Belle.
“I just obviously wanted to get back to the routine in life and being able work at home helps,” Sarah said. “It’s nice to be able to see him everyday not send him off to someone.”
The couple have two funds to help cover medical costs and lost income. The Johnathan Fredrick Dickenson benefit account at Gate City Bank in Jamestown remains open, and a GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/johnathanfredrick.