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12-12-02: Miracle baby beating the odds
Fort Recovery child's improvement credited to therapy and faith

The Daily Standard
    FORT RECOVERY - Christmas is the season of miracles and Roy and Jenelle Backs of rural Fort Recovery are thankful every day for their miracle son, Kurtis Michael.
    Little Kurtis weighed a mere 1 pound 6 ounces when he was born on Dec. 29, 2000, just 25 weeks into gestation.
    Now at almost 2 years old, Kurtis is undergoing therapy at St. Peter Neurological Center, seeing a chiropractor in Jackson Center, getting hyperbaric oxygen treatments in Cincinnati and soon will see a vision specialist. The treatments are helping the child progress, the parents say, but are expensive so family and friends are planning an upcoming fund-raiser.
    Kurtis' expected birth date was April 2001, however, he was born early when Jenelle Backs was hospitalized due to high blood pressure problems and severe pre-eclampsia. In order to save Jenelle Backs' life and to give the unborn baby a chance of surviving, an emergency Caesarean section was performed on Dec. 29.
    "My blood pressure had shot up so high, the doctors were afraid I would have a stroke. My life and my baby's were in danger," Jenelle Backs said in a recent interview.
    Kurtis miraculously survived his premature birth and immediately was put in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton.
    The Backs family believes they witnessed another miracle when Kurtis was just 2 weeks old.
    "He was so sick. He had all kinds of medications going into him and the nurses were Ooxygen bagging' him. We had a priest come and baptize him, and when the baptism began, everything became calm and quiet and he no longer needed the oxygen from that point on," Jenelle Backs said.
   Faith in God, prayers and the love others showed for Kurtis are what pulled the little guy through that day, the couple says. Unfortunately, Kurtis suffered an intro-ventricular hemorrhage in his brain, causing Cerebral Palsy.
    Six weeks after he was born, the eager new parents were able to hold their son for the first time. During those first six weeks, they learned how to take care of Kurtis' special needs. On April 3, 2001, they took home Kurtis, weighing just 4 pounds.
    In October 2001 at age 10 months, additional concerns surfaced when Kurtis began to have infantile spasms. The spasms are a seizure disorder that often occurs with premature babies, the Backses explained.
    Kurtis had trouble eating the medicated food that controlled his seizures, and the family faced yet another hurdle.
    "He wasn't eating and it took me all day to try to get some food down him. For him to survive, a gastrointestinal (feeding tube) had to be inserted," Jenelle Backs said.
    Kurtis suffered from a severe acid reflux, and a fundoplication (stomach wrap around the esophagus to stop reflux) was performed prior to inserting the feeding tube.
    "He does take some baby food orally now, but we feed him twice a day through the feeding tube, and at night he is on continual feeding," she said.
    Kurtis' cortical vision impairment also is an obstacle the family faces, and they plan to take him to the Cincinnati Eye Institute this week for an evaluation.
    "We will be seeing a neuro-ophthalmologist. Kurtis doesn't focus on objects, and we've been told his brain may not be processing what he sees. His eyes are normal, but the brain can't process it," Jenelle Backs said. "And the frustrating part is, before the seizures, he could follow colors and some objects, but now he doesn't focus. We want to find out why he doesn't focus, and if he will ever be able to. We're looking for some answers."
    The road to medical recovery also has been paved with astronomical medical financial responsibilities.
    Jenelle Backs resigned from her full-time teaching position as a second-grade teacher at Greenville City Schools to care for the couple's only child. Her husband continues his work at Midmark Corporation in Versailles.
    "I dedicate all my time to him. I feel he wouldn't be where he is today if I hadn't spent so much time with him," Jenelle Backs said.
    She is helped during the week by family members and friends who come twice a day to help with Kurtis' patterning exercises, which were learned at the St. Peter Neurological Center in southern Mercer County. The patterning exercises help teach the brain how to control movement.
    "Basically, you train the brain how it is supposed to work," she said.
    Kurtis now knows how to move his legs and can crawl halfway, however, his upper body strength is not all there yet, the couple said.
    In addition to the patterning exercises, other therapy includes twice weekly visits to a chiropractor in Jackson Center and hyperbaric oxygen treatments in Cincinnati.
    "We are trying to get everything, all signals from the brain, to be more balanced through his body all the time," Jenelle Backs said.
    Hyperbaric treatments are used to promote the growth of new vessels, heal damaged cells and saturate tissues all over the body. The Backses are hopeful the hyperbaric treatments will help heal Kurtis' damaged brain cells and promote the growth of new cells so his vision will be restored and he will be able to crawl and walk someday.
    He has received 100 of the treatments thus far and after Christmas, the family will travel to Cincinnati for another round of 20 treatments. The treatments cost $100 each and are not covered by medical insurance, the couple said.
    The couple says they have seen better head control and more upper body strength due to the hyperbaric treatments. He also is more alert and more responsive, they said.
    And just three weeks ago, tests showed Kurtis was no longer having brain seizures and soon may be able to go off seizure medication.
    Jenelle Backs said the couple continues to work with Kurtis every day to strengthen his body, to get him to roll, crawl, sit, walk and eat by mouth.
    "Due to his spasticity (tightness and stiffness in muscles) we use massaging, exercises and relaxation techniques to help him perform everyday skills. We take it one day at a time. We have to have patience and we know it is going to take Kurtis a longer time to learn skills," Jenelle Backs continued.   
    It is difficult, the couple said, not knowing what Kurtis will or will not be able to do, because he is so young.
    "We continue to have faith and hope that everything for Kurtis will be all right. He is a fighter, and we do believe we were blessed with a tiny miracle - Kurtis."


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