Ethan Makes a Surprise Early Arrival- An NICU story

Kristin McVeigh | November 12, 2018


Lindsay and Mike McTavish were anxiously awaiting the birth of their first child, due February 24. Lindsay had experienced a normal pregnancy and the couple had even recently enjoyed a “babymoon” in New York. But, on November 17, Lindsay had persistent cramping at work so they went into South Health Campus to ease their minds and receive the “all-clear”.

The news was far from settling – Lindsay was nine and a half centimeters dilated at only 25 weeks and 6 days. South Health Campus doesn’t typically deliver high-risk pregnancies but it was too risky to try to transport her to the Foothills Medical Centre, so the transport and specialized teams would come to them. The next day a baby boy arrived at exactly 26 weeks.

Ethan McTavish was born November 18, weighing 1 lb 6 oz. “That’s like a pound of butter with arms and legs,” explains Mike.

“Miraculously, he opened his eyes, wrapped his hand around the nurse’s finger, and let out a cry that sounded more like a kitten whimpering than a newborn baby. It was so emotional; beautiful and terrifying at the same time,” Lindsay and Mike agree.  

The transport team stabilized Ethan in preparation to transport him to Level III care at the Foothills Medical Centre Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Ethan would have his first ambulance ride 5 hours into his life.

The first 72 hours were critical – he was closely monitored, intubated, and kept in a dark and quiet room. It wasn’t until November 21, a full three days after he was born, that Lindsay was finally able to hold their son for the first time.


NICU experiences are often described as a roller coaster. One issue will resolve and another will present itself. Ethan had a grade 1 brain bleed and a Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA), causing abnormal blood flow between two of the major arteries connected to the heart. Like many premature newborns, he also had underdeveloped lungs and needed the support of a CPAP breathing machine.

As they treated these issues, Ethan was moved to the less intense Level II care at Foothills, and then eventually back to South Health Campus. There, he got off the CPAP machine, took time to grow and resolved feeding issues that babies born so early can sometimes deal with.

“You have no idea the NICU world even exists, and then your whole world exists because of the NICU. It really changes your perspective on a lot of things,” – Lindsay McTavish, grateful NICU Mom. 

On March 8, after 110 days of care, the McTavish family was finally able to go home from the hospital together with Ethan.

The shared experience in the NICU is something you can only truly understand when you’ve experienced it. Lindsay and Mike remain in contact with nurses that cared for them and are friends with other families they met along their journey.

Ethan is now one and a half and is meeting all his developmental milestones. “He is a happy and very social little guy, thanks to all of the attention he received during the first few months of his life.”

In honour of World Prematurity Day, November 17, an anonymous donor will match donations to the Foothills Neonatal Intensive Care Unit up to $17,000. Make your contribution by clicking here.  

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