(INSIDE EDITION) A Nebraska baby born weighing less than a pound is now home and thriving after nearly a year building up his strength in the hospital, his proud parents told InsideEdition.com.
Nathan Teply was born on December 18, 2015, far sooner than first time parents Mary and Eric Teply were expecting.
Teply, 32, had been admitted to the hospital on the Tuesday before Nathan was born after experiencing swelling and a headache she at first assumed were routine symptoms of pregnancy.
“I thought it was normal pregnancy stuff,” she said. “I could’ve died.”
Teply learned she actually had pre-eclampsia and was admitted to the hospital. Nathan had to be delivered via C-section three days later.
“And we were at the hospital ever since,” Teply said.
"He was a 24-weeker," she continued. "He was 14.99 ounces. He weighed less than a pound. He was 10.75 inches long. If you think of a piece of paper, he was smaller than that. His hand was smaller than my husband’s pinky."
What followed was a nearly year-long battle that Nathan triumphantly fought with his loving parents there every step of the way.
“They call it the NICU [neonatal intensive care unit] roller coaster for a reason,” Teply said. “I was off for six weeks, but we went back to work — we still had to pay the bills, we had a mortgage to pay — and we were up to there every day.”
After a 307-day stay in the hospital, which included a bout with pneumonia, a 15-pound, 12-ounce Nathan finally came home.
“He’s been doing amazing since he got home,” Teply said.
Though he is still hooked up to a breathing tube and on medication, Nathan marks new milestones every day, she continued.
“The other day we went on a walk... and he has such a personality. He’s such a flirt,” Teply laughed. “He’s just so funny, it’s crazy. He just loves to smile and play and he’s just so active. He’s got two teeth coming in and he’s so big now.”
Now home for a few weeks with her son before returning to work as a pharmacy technician, Teply has been planning for their future and believes she may have discovered a new calling.
“I would really love to go back to school and become a NICU nurse,” she said. “I think I found my passion. To be able to help in that way, to be able to relate to those parents; I know exactly what they’re going through. I’m hoping [to go back to school] next year. It’s something I would really love to do.”
She looks at possibility of a new career and the Facebook page that chronicled Nathan's journey as ways to help others going through similar experiences, as others did for her and Eric, 38.
"There are resources out there... there are people out there who will help you," she said, pointing to the countless support groups both online and in real life. "If there's someone I can reach out to going through the same situation... If I can help one person with their NICU journey, it's worth it."
The first-time parents have a lot on their plate, but it’s a balancing act that they’re happy to undertake.
"You know, we celebrated our anniversary in June, so we survived our first year of marriage," Teply said. "Eric broke his ankle – I joked that I had to take care of two babies then – and it’s been quite a year for us.
"But he’s amazing," Teply said of her son. "And I think he’s kept us strong."