Defying the odds: Minnesota woman delivers baby who wasn't expected to live

Pregnancy, even of the "normal" variety, is no easy task. Forty weeks of mood swings, strange cravings and swollen feet being just a few of the more common inconveniences, but Kelsey Zitzow received a more disheartening shock around the 21 week m...

Kelsey and Greg (Goob) Zitzow welcomed a perfectly healthy little boy, Liam Duane Zitzow, into the world on Jan. 8 after being told he wouldn't survive birth. Submitted Photo
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Pregnancy, even of the "normal" variety, is no easy task. Forty weeks of mood swings, strange cravings and swollen feet being just a few of the more common inconveniences, but Kelsey Zitzow received a more disheartening shock around the 21 week mark when doctors told her and her husband Greg (Goob) Zitzow that their child's arms and legs were growing shorter than normal.

"When they told us (it was probably) a form of skeletal dysplasia, it was like 'Ok, we'll deal with that'," said Kelsey. "You know, we'll love him no matter what."

But a few weeks later the "roller coaster of a pregnancy" continued, delivering a heavy blow.

In and out of specialists, the Zitzows went from thinking their baby had just a few skeletal issues to believing he would have a 50/50 chance of living.

"Then at 36 weeks we went completely backwards...They measured his chest and said it wasn't big enough for his lungs," she said. "The doctors told us, 'Ok, he's probably not going to survive.'"


Overwhelmed, the Zitzows scheduled a C-section a couple weeks out (since the baby was also breach) and readied everything for her to deliver at the Children's Hospital in the Twin Cities.

They came back home to Vergas with nothing to do but wait.

"We came home and Sunday morning (two days after hearing their baby probably wouldn't survive birth), at about 3:30 a.m. my water broke," she said.

From there it was a rush to the hospital, and Kelsey was flight lifted to the cities, with Daddy Goob and both grandmas following behind in the car.

"For some reason-even before my husband got there-I felt very calm," said Kelsey. "The doctor sat down with me and said they were going to do everything they can."

Of course, she said, she shed a fair amount of tears, but something inside her-some mommy instinct-kicked in, and the doctors started the procedure.

"They did the C-section, and he came out crying," she recalled, adding that her husband was able to catch a look at the doctors, and he remembers them just kind of looking at each other, surprised.

"(The doctors) didn't even bring him to me," she said.


He was rushed off to a room, and the Zitzows didn't know what to think, so Goob followed the neonatal intensive care doctors as they surrounded his new son.

"The doctor looked at my husband and said, 'Don't you have a camera?' and he said, 'You mean he's alive?'," Kelsey recalled.

And that he was. Little baby Liam Duane Zitzow was born Jan. 8, defying all the odds.

"He never even needed oxygen like they said he would," said Kelsey. "All the doctors said, 'He stumped us-he truly is a miracle'."

As for the prognosis, Baby Liam does have a common type of skeletal dysplasia, which only affects his growth, nothing cognitively, but they aren't quite sure exactly what that will mean for him down the road-he may just be a bit shorter than "normal."

"The length from his shoulder to his elbow is shorter, but from elbow to hand is normal," said Kelsey, adding that it's the same with his legs: from hip to knee is a tad shorter, but from knee to foot is regular length.

"He does (also) breathe fast, but the more he grows, the stronger that will get," she said, adding that Liam will just have to see a specialist once a year to monitor his growth and progress.

For now, the Zitzows are just happy to be through the rollercoaster, enjoying getting to know their first born and grateful the start to their family turned out better than expected.


"If you're ever given negative information, just know that God's in charge," said Kelsey. "It's God's plan, not ours."

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