Baby Gael Sleeping in a Boxing Outfit

Tiny but Mighty; How Gael is Fighting the Odds of Micro Preemie Births

With the help of in vitro fertilization (IVF), a series of medical procedures to help with fertility, El Paso natives, Lisette and Fernie Escobedo, were over the moon when they learned that their family of four was growing by two more! But after only 8 weeks and 5 days, Lisette received unimaginable news; One baby no longer had a heartbeat. Unfortunately, the challenges for Gael and his family did not stop there.  

At 14 weeks, Gael started measuring smaller than expected and continued to fall behind. Lisette was now visiting her doctor more frequently and each visit seemed to uncover more complications. Doctors told Lisette that Gael was not receiving the nutrients he needed to grow, there were issues with his placenta, and problems with blood flow in the cord.  

By 23 weeks, Baby Gael weighed only 6 ounces, while the average is 1.1 pounds. To ensure survival, Lisette had to increase Gael’s weight to 1 pound and immediately began drinking three protein shakes a day. 

Soon after, the doctors performed a nonstress test, to check in on baby Gael’s health, and that is when Lisette knew the battle was just beginning. On top of Gael’s preexisting conditions, Lisette learned he also had an abnormal heart rate and was immediately admitted to the hospital. Lisette shares, “They decided he was safer out than in, so two days later, Gael was delivered.” 

At 30 weeks, Gael Mateo Escobedo was born on November 3, 2021, weighing only 1 pound and 12 ounces, making Gael a micro preemie. To be considered a micro preemie, a baby must be born at 26 weeks or less and/ or weigh less than 28oz (1 pound and 12 ounces). Gael was immediately placed in an incubator and put on a ventilator. For the next six weeks, Gael battled many complications such as injuries to his lungs from the ventilator, pneumonia, and an abscess on his foot leading to severe reverse blood flow.  

Gael needed access to an extracorporeal membrane oxygen (ECMO) respiratory machine that is not accessible in El Paso. Gael was then transported to University Health Hospital in San Antonio, TX on December 17, 2021. When Lisette, her mother, and Gael arrived 6 hours from home, in an unfamiliar city, they did not know what they were going to do next. 

What the Ronald McDonald House Charities® of San Antonio Does for Families 

Luckily, the hospital informed them they could stay at the Ronald McDonald House®, free of charge, as long as there was availability! Lisette shares, “We crossed our fingers because it was around Christmas time, and we didn’t have much to go off of. But [Ronald McDonald House] did have a room- thank God. We checked in on the 18th of December and we’ve been here ever since; getting the blessing of the Ronald McDonald House.” 

With a little bit of faith and progress, baby Gael no longer needed to be put on the ECMO respiratory machine. On Valentine’s Day, a Tracheostomy and gastrostomy tube (G-Tube) was surgically placed to help baby Gael with feeding, hydration and medication. After 6 months of uphill battles, Gael is now 9 pounds and suffers from chronic lung disease. Lisette is hopeful that by Gael’s first birthday, on 11/03/22, they will all be back home again in El Paso.

But going home will only be half the battle. Lisette has been preparing herself for Gael’s homecoming by shadowing nurses, learning how to care for Gael, and adjusting to her new normal. Once Gael is home, Lisette expects a typical day will consist of: Gael being fully converted to a home ventilator, 24-hour nursing care, physical, occupational and speech therapy sessions. In addition to their new schedule, many changes and additions will be taking place inside their home as well. Medical equipment and critical supplies such as gloves, saline and feeding bags will be needed to continue providing Gael with the best care possible while at home. 

“The only thing we can do now, is count our blessings and take it a day at a time,” Lisette shares, “I always tell my husband, ‘After this, we have to do something for the Ronald McDonald House because you have to count your blessings. I’ve literally counted how much it would have cost to pay for a hotel while managing our mortgage and being in a situation like this- it just wouldn’t even be possible without the Ronald McDonald House. My whole family is grateful for it.” 

How You Can Support Children Like Gael 

Gael’s family has stayed at the Ronald McDonald House Charities® of San Antonio for 6 months. The average cost for a hotel and food in San Antonio for 6 months is $30,000. Through the support of our community and donors like you, our families never have to pay to stay at our house. 

When you give to RMHC® of San Antonio, parents like Lisette never have to worry about where they will sleep at night, where their next meal will come from, or how they will afford to stay by their child’s side.   

Give today and cover the cost for Gael’s family to stay focused on what matters most—Gael. 

To stay updated on baby Gael’s progress, you can follow his Facebook group page at Gael’s Updates and NICU journey.