Preemie celebrates first Christmas at home

Eau Claire family brings fifteen month old baby home from the hospital just in time for the holidays
Published: Dec. 27, 2022 at 5:21 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - An Eau Claire family celebrates a very memorable holiday season. It’s the very first Christmas their fifteen month old has been able to spend at home with her family.

Opal Smith was born prematurely, at just twenty-eight weeks. She weighed just over a pound and her lungs were underdeveloped. She was hospitalized in the NICU at Children’s Minnesota hospital for nearly a year.

Despite having to be away from Opal for so long, her mother, Eliza Smith, said she rested easy knowing she was taken care of in the NICU.

“We grew to really love and care about all the nursing staff and the doctors. They were so wonderful to Opal. They treated her with so much care and compassion and it became easier as the days went on, knowing she had such a loving NICU family there,” Smith said.

In September, Opal’s family received the news that she was finally healthy enough to go home.

“We had been waiting and planning for her to come home for quite some time. And just the news that she finally was... it was so exciting and we were thrilled,” Smith said.

Opal spent Christmas opening presents with her older brother. She was gifted toys and musical instruments.

“She had music therapy at Children’s in the NICU, starting from when she was very tiny and she always responded to it so well, even when she was really little, her heart rate would kind of go down and she was just content... We got her some music stuff this year for Christmas, so she can kind of keep that going,” Smith said.

Her family said they’re proud of everything Opal has overcome.

“She’s a very happy little girl. She always has been, which always surprised me that she’s been able to remain so positive, even though she’s gone through a lot,” Smith said.

Opal’s mother said that any parents in a similar situation shouldn’t give up hope that things will get better.

Today, Opal weighs seventeen pounds and three ounces. She’s healthy and doing well at home.