TEMPLE (November 28, 2013) Thanksgiving Day can be a milestone for anyone. For a Fort Hood soldier and his wife, it marks their 17th straight day in the hospital with their newborn son.
Army 1st Lieutenant Drake Kuebler and his wife Sam have become all too familiar with McLane Children’s Neonatal ICU inside Baylor Scott & White Health’s Memorial Hospital at Temple.
Their son Gabriel was born 17 days ago with Gastroschisis, a birth defect in which an infant's intestines stick out of its body through a defect on one side of the umbilical cord.
It’s a common defect; nurses inside the Neonatal ICU say they see about a half-dozen cases per year. Gastroschisis can be detected during ultrasounds, the Kueblers found out about Gabriel’s case around 12 weeks.
“My wife described it to me in detail and it just knocked the wind out of me," 1st Lt. Drake Kuebler said.
“I was expecting good news, I was expecting great things, but then I hear this news that's absolutely crushing," Sam Kuebler said.
Gastroschisis is considered a surgical emergency. When Gabriel was born, he was wheeled away from his mother and father for surgery prep. In his first minutes on Earth, Drake and Sam didn’t even get to hold their baby boy.
“You feel like you’re missing out,” Drake said.
“You watch movies and TV shows you know, and they describe the picture perfect birth…and you don't quite get that."
After two surgeries, Gabriel’s intestines have been placed back inside his body. Yet, he tentatively won’t leave the hospital until February 2014.
However, the Kuebler’s marked a separate milestone on Thanksgiving Day; during the afternoon they finally got a chance to play mom and dad when they held their baby boy for the second time since birth.
“Every parent wants to hold their newborn, and their newborn wants to be held. We sat and watched for so long hoping for that day to come,” Sam said.
No Thanksgiving feast sat behind the Neonatal ICU doors for Drake and Sam Thursday, just their son Gabriel.
But on a day of gratitude, he’s all they needed.
“Everyone has been like family to us here as we go through this,” Drake said.
“When we walk into those doors, for us, it’s become home.”