The saying goes, “Good things come to those who wait” and no one has waited longer than the family of premature baby Kendall Jurnakins. He finally gets to go home after spending a whopping 460 days in the NICU—he was born in December 2020.
Born at just 25 weeks gestation and weighing only 15 ounces, baby Kendall was small enough to fit in the palm of a hand. At the time of his birth, his chances of survival were between 50-60%. He underwent a tracheostomy and was placed on a ventilator to improve his chances for healthy survival—and that’s not the only crazy part of the story surrounding this premature baby.
“I just was scared my baby wasn’t gonna make it,” mom Sparkle Jurnakins tells Good Morning America. She suffered from respiratory distress syndrome and chronic lung disease following her son’s birth.
Sparkle faced another serious health scare last summer when Kendall was just eight months old—she contracted COVID-19.
“COVID almost took me out,” she told GMA. “From August to October, I was in a coma.”
She reunited with baby Kendall in December and she said even though she was afraid he wouldn’t remember her, he recognized his mama instantly and “looked at me the whole time.”
Now that he’s going home, Kendall will use his trach to breathe and to help him eat. The doctors who worked with him for the last 460+ days were thrilled when he reached the ever-so-important NICU milestone: graduation.
“This moment, actually, I have no words. It’s such a reward for all of us,” Dr. Taha Ben Saad, NICU medical director, told WTHR13. “We’ve waited for this day for a long time and it’s such a reward. And then after all those long days and long nights, this is the best day for us. We forget everything else.”
His mom is also grateful for all of the time, energy, and care from Kendall’s NICU team during this long, challenging time—but she’s so happy to have him where he belongs now.
“I knew he was in good hands,” said Sparkle. “He just wasn’t at home.”
Now Kendall will get to finally spend time with his big brother and big sister. Sparkle said her older son is especially happy to have his little brother home.
“My son said ‘we don’t have to go to Disney’ for his birthday this year. He said, ‘This is my gift, the best gift ever, to get him home,'” said Sparkle.