Mom From Viral Pregnancy Video, Who Was in Critical Condition After Giving Birth at 24 Weeks, Says Baby Son 'Is a Miracle'
'The doctor told me, 'If you continue to carry this baby, you're going to die,' " Dana Graves tells PEOPLE
Kaleb Arkell Graves was delivered via C-section at 24 weeks last October after doctors told Dana that the pregnancy had caused nearly fatal high blood pressure and to carry the baby any longer would cost her her life.
‘The doctor told me, ‘If you continue to carry this baby, you’re going to die,’ ” Graves, 41, tells PEOPLE.
The Virginia woman insisted on carrying the baby until he reached a point where he would have the best chance of survival, despite her doctor’s recommendations.
“She refused to go on with the delivery until it was a time where they could actually take care of him in the neonatal intensive care unit,” Dana’s husband, Arkell Graves, 41, told PEOPLE in October. “I’m going to tell you, just looking at my wife, it was the most selfless thing I have ever seen somebody do.”
Both mother and baby were in critical condition following the delivery.
“Day two they told me he was not going to make it through the night,” Dana recalls. “They told me I should hold him and say my goodbyes. It was so heartbreaking.”
But Kaleb made it through that night – and many more. He’s now 20 weeks old and weighs nearly six pounds.
While everyone on the hospital floor has taken to calling Kaleb a miracle baby, his 143 days of life in the NICU have been far from perfect. He’s endured heart surgery, fluid has been drained from around his brain and he was intubated for months due to chronic lung disease. Still, Kaleb has grown stronger each day and continues to reach new milestones.
“The first time I heard him cry, it was like music,” Dana says. “Everybody sees that he is a miracle – everybody recognizes it.”
Through every heart wrenching medical issue, Dana has shared her family’s journey on a Facebook page, where over 150,000 people follow the baby’s progress.
Dana says her sister created the page for her following the incredible support of her pregnancy announcement video, which captured Arkell’s tears of joy over the pregnancy news. Prior to this pregnancy, the couple had struggled with infertility for 17 years, suffering through four miscarriages and one stillbirth.
“My sister started the page for me because I needed something to read to Kaleb and she said I should read him all the beautiful messages we had been getting after the video,” Dana explains.
“So I started reading the posts and I realized I really needed to respond because there were a lot of other preemie moms looking for support and encouragement,” she continues.
Now back to work as a district manager for a finance company, Dana spends her evenings with Kaleb in the hospital and stays up late at night responding to and encouraging other parents.
“I’m just so grateful because the page let me know I was not alone,” she says. “I had my family, I had my nurses here but it was nothing like the people that are on that page. There are some truly beautiful people out there.”
The support has even extended to the couple’s son Keelyn, 14, who is adopted.
“We have one woman in Texas and every week she sends Keelyn two books – one for him and one for him to read to the baby,” she says. “Keelyn does not even believe there are so many people out there that love our family.”
While Dana still doesn’t know exactly when she’ll be able to bring Kaleb home, she says she’ll continue to share every up and down he experiences with the tens of thousands of people who love him.
“I’m going to keep posting because I need to make sure that God gets the glory for the miracle he has worked in Kaleb’s life,” she says. “We’re just thankful. We really are.”