Attending the party the day tropical storm Isaac blew by were her mother, Lakeisha Iles, brother, 4-year-old Lehmani Iles; her grandma, Celia Iles, and nurses in the neonatal nursery.
Liniyah looked like a little pixie, dressed in an orchid, floral-print gown with a tiny, silver-metallic ribbon adorning her full head of straight, jet-black hair. Her tiny hands and skinny little arms were taped with intravenous tubes. She didn't party much because she isn't allowed to move for fear of burning too many calories. Mother Lakeisha Iles got to hold her baby for the very first time, cradling her inside her shirt next to her chest, “kangaroo style.”
“This is fantastic,” Lakeisha said as she gently patted her baby's back. “My heart is racing. I'm so happy.”
She said having the baby close to home was a lot less stressful than having to go off island.
“I try to come here every afternoon,” Lakeisha said. “I can come and see her 24 hours a day if I want to.”
She said the nurses have been wonderful and she can call them any time for updates.
“It's comforting to know Dr. Lindsay is here too,” she said.
The term micropreemie usually refers to a premature baby who weighs less than 800 grams (1 pound, 12 ounces) or is younger than 26 weeks at birth.
Liniyah Iles weighed in at 1 pound, 13.4 ounces, but was born at 25 weeks, 15 weeks short of full term. No one knows why she came early.
Faye John-Baptiste, a registered nurse and nurse manager at JFL, said many, many, many dozens of sick or premature babies have had to go off island in the 18 years she has worked in the nursery. Many have not made it home, she added. The number of pre-term babies born within the last six years is 62.
Survival rates of micropreemies depend on gestational age. At 25 weeks gestation, about 75 percent of infants survive. Although all micropreemies are very underdeveloped at birth and require constant medical care, many grow up with no longterm effects of prematurity.
Fortunately, for all sick or premature newborn on St. Croix, neonatal specialist Learie Lindsay has returned to the Caribbean, settling at St. Croix and JFL. Liniyah Iles was Dr. Lindsay's first patient since he began working at JFL a month ago.
Liniyah Iles was supposed to arrive the beginning of November. Lindsay said the infant is doing great and almost off the respirator.
“She is getting strictly breast milk, which helps,” Lindsay said. “Being with family is good for the baby and the family.”
The soft-spoken Lindsay said the preemies may leave the hospital close to their actual due date but only when they meet certain criteria, such as keeping their temperature up on their own, no breathing issues, gaining weight and feeding by mouth.
Born on Trinidad, Lindsay got his medical degree at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. He says from the beginning of his residency at Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York he knew he wanted to be a neonatologist. He likes the quick results he sees in intervention with infants. Lindsay is board certified in neonatal-perinatal medicine and pediatrics.
He had been the chief of pediatrics and neonatology at JFL from 1999 to 2005. He said he left JFL at that time for a change in his career.
Lindsay said he was a little apprehensive about moving back to the Caribbean.
“As soon as I landed on St. Croix I felt like I was home.”
“The stars lined up and our prayers were answered,” John-Baptiste said. “I have few words to express how happy we are for the way things have worked out. We're just over the top happy to have Dr. Lindsay here.”