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A $4 million miracle baby named Ryder; The premature birth of her son changed Camille Plante’s life from mother to advocate

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Ryder Plante, shown here about the size of his father’s hand, was given only a 17 percent chance of survival. (Submitted Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

It is supposed to be the most natural event in a young couple’s life: Having a baby to complete the family, but this wish can end in tragedy or a fight for that little life. Thanks to research and new technology, the tiniest of babies today have a greater chance at life than they have ever had.

Premature babies born 37 weeks earlier than their due date in the ‘70s had almost no chance of survival. At that time, all they could do is put the baby under a heat lamp and use adapted technology from adults to give the baby oxygen.

According to America’s Health Rankings, from the mid ‘80s on, chances got better and better at survival. Today, babies born at 23 weeks, considered extreme preemies, have an increased chance of survival of 17 percent, and every week more almost doubles the chance of survival, but not without significant health problems.

Camille Plante, neonatal intensive care unit family liaison, visited the Roswell Woman’s Club for its February meeting to speak about her personal experience and how having a premature baby changed her life.

“In order for me to really explain what I do and how I came to this line of work, you really need to understand what we (Camille Plante and her husband Dustin Plante) went through with our childbirth and trying to start a family,” Plante said.

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“We’ve been married about a year and a half, we decided we would try to have a family. I got pregnant immediately and everything was going great. And at 23 weeks and two days we had a demise. It is considered a late-term loss. We had to go to Albuquerque and I had to have surgery. It was devastating,” Plante said.

Sharing her experience with friends, Plante was surprised to hear that it was not an uncommon thing. “They (friends) started talking about it and I was paying attention,” she said.

After recovering, the Plantes got the clearance to try to conceive again.

“I got pregnant immediately — same timeline and same due date, June 25th. On Feb. 28, the same day, 23 weeks and two days (when they lost their first baby), I started bleeding out. I hemorrhaged and my placenta detached. I just knew the baby was gone. I knew we were going through this again,” Plante said.

To her and her families’ surprise, the baby was alive, but the doctor said that they would lose her, while the baby would live.

“They told us basically to decide: him or me?” Plante said. “I looked to my mom and said, ‘I don’t want to die today.’ I didn’t understand how I was fine yesterday and I was going to die today. My mom just said, ‘No, both, so figure it out.’”

An emergency C-section followed.

“They decided to deliver him at Memorial Medical in Las Cruces,” Plante said. “I wasn’t six months pregnant. He was a fetus. He was 610 grams at birth, which is 1 pound, 6 ounces. They said if he was 500 grams or under they would not attempt to save him. So, our little beast, as we call him, was 610 grams,” Plante said.

The medical staff warned the family that the child would be severely handicapped, he would be blind, deaf and have cerebral palsy, if he survived at all.

“When I woke up, they wheeled this little rocket ship in. He was the strangest looking thing. It didn’t look like a baby, I couldn’t relate to what I was seeing. You are not supposed to see your child as a fetus. He was supposed to have three or four more months in my womb,” Plante said.

“They wrapped him in cellophane. I said, ‘Is that sandwich wrap?’ They had him hooked up and they’d fashioned a wooly for his head to keep the moisture and body heat. The moisture is a big deal, because his skin is so thin. It is not a fully formed organ yet. When they intubated him, they put his arm out, somebody rested their arm on his wrist and it created a full flesh wound, because the skin was so thin. It is barely a membrane at this point,” Plante said. “He smelled like blood, he smelled like something that just shouldn’t be there. You know, that very animalistic smell, that idea of something that should not be here.

“They took him and I called frantically to the NICU and asked to baptize my son, because they told me he would not make it through the night. It would be good for me lifelong to know that he was baptized. So, we are preparing ourselves for the worst,” Plante said.

The family chose to name their boy Ryder, after the old English word for knights, the warriors on horseback. What followed were days, weeks and months of worry, with the doctors giving the family no hope. Camille Plante would be at her child’s side during the day and in the evening her husband joined the watch.

When Ryder opened up his eyes, Plante knew he would live. “It activated me to be the warrior parent,” she said.

The nurses and doctors got to know the couple and the Plantes developed an understanding of policy and procedure in the NICU. Soon, they were asked to help with other families in the same situation.

Plante was asked to join the March of Dimes in Roswell. The family found support and Plante became an active advocate for March of Dimes and for families with premature babies. She started the Wee Warrior Project at the same time, bringing blankets to the NICUs to cover the incubators and bringing comfortable chairs for parents to hold their baby. “It is loud and there is bright light, the blankets protect the babies,” Plante said.

Plante started bringing in community involvement and helped building support within each community.

Plante said that her son was the only 23-week premature baby that had no longterm physical problems. She found out about intervention therapy, the free Department of Health services. After having their son home, the real work began. Her son associated pain with anybody approaching him; something all premature babies have in common. Ryder had to learn to drink and swallow, to trust and get used to being held.

“MECA Therapies in Las Cruces heard about me and I talked with the CEO. They let me come in and create the program for early intervention, because I had the knowledge and I’ve been working with the Wee Warriors Project, working with March of Dimes,” Plante said. “We offer support to the families. I go into the NICUs; I do floor duty in Las Cruces and El Paso; I am working with 10 different hospitals in our regions from Albuquerque, Lubbock and Odessa. Everywhere our New Mexico babies are going, we provide peer support, resources, information, education and help them ease out the NICU into the early family intervention therapies.

Today, Ryder is a healthy and active boy of 5 years. It took four million dollars to save him. Fortunately the family had Federal insurance. “Not everybody has that,” Plante said.

“I will be working on activating some people here in Roswell, because you guys don’t have a NICU but you have a special care unit,” Plante said.

“Your hospitals need to level up,” Plante said. “They need fundraising, they need community involvement. I am going to fight for every hospital in our region that we serve, to make sure that we can take care of the babies that we are having here on the front lines. This is what I do.”

Plante is going to be the guest speaker on March 8 at the Hi-Q Venue, 208 N. Virginia Ave. Hats for Health is a free Kentucky Derby style event, which is organized by Lovelace Regional Hospital. There will be women’s health information available, local vendors and a raffle. Proceeds will benefit the March of Dimes.

For more information, visit mecatherapies.com, lovelace.com/events or call 1-877-419-3030.

Christina Stock may be contacted at 622-7710, ext. 309, or at vision@rdrnews.com.