Power of the Pen: Premature infant marks first birthday
by Andree Niswander, reporter
I'm sitting here looking at a pen.
As a writer, this ink-filled instrument is essential to my work. It's probably the most powerful tool I use every day ... well, that, and my computer. Every quote ever taken and every story ever written first fell from some little, unassuming pen.
That's probably why there are lots of them in one little compartment of my desk drawer. Most of them work, and some don't. Some are red, and others black. Some have caps, and some, sadly, have chew marks. Regardless of their present state, these pens play a fairly big role in my day-to-day work. And yet, all of them are tiny enough to get lost in the abyss called my purse or into the car seat, never to return.
Despite its importance in my life, the pen doesn't usually get a second look from me. But today is different. I can't stop looking at this pen, and that's because it's not just any pen that has captured my attention.
I'm looking at a newborn photo of Kyle Kupiec, born four months premature last February to Stow residents Joe and Jennifer Kupiec during an Orlando vacation. In the photo, Kyle's lying in a bed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Florida Hospital South, and in the foreground, his father holds a pen to demonstrate the size of this tiny, little, tape and tube-covered body.
A pen ... not a yardstick, or even a ruler. The comparable measuring tool for Kyle one year ago was a pen. And in the photo, he's not much longer than the pen.
Suddenly, the pen doesn't look so little ... or significant.
I am without words, even with the drawer full of pens. For a writer, that's fairly unusual.
I'm struck by this powerful portrait.
How could such a tiny, frail baby survive? And yet he did. This week, Kyle turned 1.
No longer a 1-pound, 6-ounce, pen-sized preemie, Kyle survived three surgeries in his first six months on his heart, eyes and bilateral hernias, 69 days on life support and ventilators, a weight drop to just 18 ounces, 11 blood transfusions, pneumonia, numerous infections, and 119 days in the hospital.
He's been home for eight months, weighs 16 pounds, and he is thriving, according to Jennifer.
Born with a hole in his heart, Kyle had a surgery when he was just 2 weeks old to repair the problem. He'll always have a metal clip in his heart, she said, "but his heart's fine. He can do everything ... He can have a normal life."
With 20-20 vision, Kyle really has eyes for his big sister, 8-year-old Madison, said Jennifer.
"We've always said that his sister is his favorite toy, ever since he came home from the hospital. When she walks in the room, he just lights up," she said. "She's a great big sister."
To keep friends and family posted on Kyle's past and present progress, his parents created a Web site, kupiec.blogspot.com.
This week, the family will return to Orlando, a trip that will include a hospital reunion, with doctors, nurses and another family whose child was in the facility with Kyle.
The Kupiecs also plan to visit Disney World, and to provide dinner to current residents of the Orlando Ronald McDonald House, the Kupiec's second home during their four-month stay, said Jennifer.
The family also takes meals to Akron's Ronald McDonald House.
"When you have a child faced with a life-threatening medical crisis, life can become very stressful, very quickly. Added to the mix, we were 1,000 miles away from home. We are so thankful to the Ronald McDonald House, for providing us with a home away from home," she said.
With his pen-sized beginning, Kyle definitely has made a mark on the Kupiec family, said Jennifer, "We're complete, and we're just so happy. With everything we've been through, not knowing if he'd survive, everything he does, we just appreciate it. We take nothing for granted. We feel blessed to have him here."