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Gift of Life: Airman, husband, face challenges, celebrate daughter's first holiday

  • Published
  • By Rhonda Griffin
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Welcoming a new bundle of joy is an exciting and challenging time for parents. But learning the shocking news that your precious little gift has been born with health complications is a blow that many new parents have a difficult time comprehending.

Staff Sgt. Christina Baxter, 43rd Force Support Squadron, had experienced a relatively normal pregnancy and, during the routine prenatal testing, she and her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Steven Baxter, learned they were expecting a little girl. At Womack Army Medical Center, Jade Skye Baxter came into the world on Feb. 24 at 8:06 a.m.

Little did the happy couple know that their lives were about to change in more ways than they could ever expect.

"She has Down syndrome," they were told by the doctors. "It was like someone punched me in the face," Sergeant S. Baxter said.

Within 30 minutes after she was born, Jade was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit with the proud new dad running back and forth between his wife and child.

Two weeks and many tests later, Jade was transferred to Chapel Hill, where she was diagnosed with more complications including laryngomalacia, or "floppy airway," which restricts breathing. At only one month old, she was given a bronchoscopy. A tracheotomy followed one week later.

After two terrifying months of watching their baby girl struggling to hold on with everything she had, the Baxters were finally able to have more confidence that Jade's condition was improving.

Though the following months brought about more tests and another surgery to insert a feeding tube, the couple has adjusted well to caring for Jade's needs. Her consistent improvements have also helped to lighten their load when they take her on outings.

"She loves being out and about," Sergeant S. Baxter said. "We used to have to lug a bunch of stuff around. Now we're down to just one piece of equipment."

This holiday season will be an extremely special one for the family. On Christmas Eve, little Jade will be 10 months old.

With the help of many programs for children with exceptional needs, including Ft. Bragg's Early Intervention and Exceptional Family Members programs and the Triangle Down Syndrome Network, the little girl is keeping up with others her age.

"She's meeting all of the milestones as if she were a normal child," Sergeant C. Baxter said. "She's more advanced than other Down's syndrome babies with less complications."

The couple is enjoying watching Jade grow and develop.

"She's trying to crawl now," Sergeant C. Baxter said, "but she goes backwards instead of forward. She lifts her arms when she wants to be held."

"Her heart, lungs and brain are all normal," her husband added. "In all actuality, she just has the extra chromosome."

"We've been told that, before they are born, children with special needs pick their parents," said Sergeant C. Baxter. "Jade picked us."