Yalissa Whitaker’s journey into life

CLEAR FORK VALLEY — A tiny but already focused young woman lives in a house south of Bellville.

She came into this life when only 27 weeks old, and she then weighed one pound and 12 ounces.

She lives with parents Jocelin and Marc Whitaker.

That she is here carries a long and winding tale of personal perseverance, of overcoming the odds and fighting for supremacy over people who said some things were just not possible.

Jocelin and Marc Whitaker operate Whitaker’s Farm Market, on State Route 13 south of the village.

Jocelin Whitaker said she had wanted to have an all natural home birth. She is a doctor of naturopathy.

She has had two miscarriages, and said she thought she might be having difficulties because she was “very tired” with her pregnancy.

Then at six months, there was a change in her blood pressure. She had been working with a midwife. There was an “over ten-point jump” in her blood pressure.

Then, when her blood pressure became 195/95 she decided to visit the hospital in Mansfield. They said she was going to need care they could not provide so she was taken to a hospital in Dublin. That hospital said they could only take a patient who had carried a baby to 32 weeks. So she was sent to Riverside Hospital. This was Feb. 21.

At Riverside, they controlled her blood pressure and talked about an ultra sound. Jocelin said she was generally opposed to that procedure, but was told a female baby was less likely to have medical difficulties. She had the ultra sound and found out she had a girl.

She found out her blood pressure was out of control, her liver enzymes were not good, and there was a problem with her blood platelets.

She had severe preeclampsia, with the possibility of HELLP syndrome.

The HELLP syndrome is a life threatening liver disorder.

Jocelin said she feared doctors there were “cookie cuttering me” and wanted to do things the way they had always done them. She said some there knew of her training, and some were “respectful” but others weren’t.

The upshot of all these diagnostic findings was that she had a “high risk pregnancy.” After Jocelin was in the hospital five days, Yalissa was born. When she was three weeks old she was transferred to Nationwide Children’s main campus in downtown Columbus.

Jocelin and Marc Whitaker were allowed to stay at the Ronald McDonald House, which is across from the main campus.

In all the time Yalissa remained in Columbus, 4.5 months, Jocelin came home five days. Her parents, Terry and Carol Boutet, and husband would take her out to eat occasionally, to try to give her a bit of normalcy.

Marc didn’t leave her side for the first week, she said.

Along the way, Jocelin dealt with doctors, therapists, case managers, and unit managers.

She wrote updates on her laptop, and posted them so friends could see. She said she received support fom people in every state in the United States, and in over 160 countries.

When Yalissa was first born, mega churches were praying for her, Jocelin said.

Yalissa was kept in the NICU, and when she was 10 days old, Jocelin first got to hold her.

On March 1, Yalissa was given her first bit of breast milk.

Two times Yalissa had to be re-intubated. It was discovered a small rip in her lungs was allowing air to leak into her chest cavity. Workers had to hand ventilate her first, giving tiny puffs of air to her.

This is when doctors said they didn’t know if she would make it through the night.

A chest tube was given to her with surfactant, which is supposed to naturally occur in lungs.

“If you ever want to test physical, emotional, and spiritual endurance” a person should end up in the NICU, Jocelin said.

Yalissa received eight transfusions, four of them from her father. The others were from anonymous donors.

At one point Yalissa had a false positive for a staph infection. This was after a site on her body wasn’t cleaned properly, which means it was contaminated.

There were a lot of back and forth moments in the NICU.

She had a cpap tube in her mouth, giving her extra air. This resulted in a “cpap belly,” making it distended. Her trachea was swollen for eight days, and she had too be given steroids to bring down the swelling.

The type of food she was getting became an issue, because Jocelin and Marc wanted her to have only breast milk. She had been fed breast milk for 34 weeks, but people in the hospital said it couldn’t be given past 34 weeks. She was given something at one point that had cows’ milk in it, and Yalissa became lethargic and constipated. She and Marc began to insist on something called prolacta. It is made with concentrated donor breast milk.

Yalissa became the first baby in the hospital to receive prolacta.

On May 1 Yalissa was given a nasal cannula, and she started bottle feeds. On May 26 she moved out of an incubator to a “big girl crib,” Jocelin said.

The amount of food she received and the timing of feeding was discussed many times, Jocelin said. Some advocated feeding every three hours; others 2.5 hours.

Now Yalissa eats whenever she is hungry.

The baby’s endocrine levels were monitored and some wanted to have Yalissa fast for six hours to better monitor endocrine.

This became a case of “negotiating” about the doctor’s request, Jocelin said, using quote marks signals with her hands.

She said she didn’t feel people seeking medical help should have to “function in fear.”

The Whitakers have a strong faith which is a literal Biblical interpretation of Yahwe. They have a congregation that meets in their home.

Yalissa, now at home, is showing some of the determination she first demonstrated in the hospital.

There got to be a time when she pulled out her nasal cannula and put it on top of her nose. This meant she was more interested in getting her bottle, Jocelin said.

Yalissa was born with dark hair and eyebrows, which answers questions many have asked, Jocelin said. Because of her prematurity, people were wondering what she looked like.

Her middle name is Celeste, and her name together means heavenly, beautiful flower. She now says yes, no, hey and mama.

Says Jocelin of the journey she and family took: “It’s not a road I would have chosen, because it was a very hard road.”

Jocelin refers to Yalissa as here “million dollar baby” because that is what her hospital bills total. There is a group called “Medical Sharing” that is helping with some of the charges, Jocelin said. She and Marc have been a member of this group for 10 years.

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Jocelin Whitaker with daughter Yalissa. Louise Swartzwalder | Bellville Star
http://www.thebellvillestar.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/39/2017/09/web1_jocelin.jpgJocelin Whitaker with daughter Yalissa. Louise Swartzwalder | Bellville Star