By Jenny Neyman
Photo by Jenny Neyman Redoubt Reporter. Tricia Friel, a physical therapy assistant, helps Carter Moore complete a puzzle at Kenai Kids Therapy in Soldotna on Monday. After a rough start to life, Carter is thriving, and his parents hope to make the community aware of the needs of kids like Carter and the organizations that can help.
Carter Moore’s toddler-sized glasses give his bright blue eyes a look of being permanently cast in wide-eyed surprise, an impression that’s reinforced by his near-constant curiosity and fearless exploration. It’s fitting, given the surprise he was to his family.
“He’s a double surprise. It was a surprise I got pregnant so quick, and a surprise he came so quick, too,” said Sonja Moore, of Soldotna.
Sonja and Rusty Moore’s older boys, Kade, nearly 8, and Cooper, who will turn 4 in August, were conceived through fertility treatments. Moore has had surgery for endometriosis and knew getting pregnant would be a challenge. They did get pregnant naturally once but lost the baby at about four months. Pregnancy with Kade went relatively well, although he had to have surgery at 4 months old for severe acid reflux. Moore lost another pregnancy after Kade, then Moore’s pregnancy and delivery with Cooper went completely smoothly.
With baby Cooper added to the family, life settled into a rhythm for the Moores, with Rusty working for Northern Technology Group and then Central Peninsula Hospital in information services, and Moore working as a nurse’s aide at the Peninsula Medical Center.
The Moores wanted another baby. Being fertility parents, they’d gotten used to thinking pregnancy would come when they were ready to pursue another round of treatments. Kade and Cooper were spaced four years apart, which seemed like a good schedule to continue, Moore said.
Working in part with Dr. Nels Anderson, who does fertility treatments as part of his medical practice, Moore knew nature still occasionally takes charge, even with parents who had previously needed to supplement nature with science.
Photo courtesy of Sonja Moore. Carter Moore was just 3 pounds, 11 ounces, when he was born Aug. 11, 2007 —10 weeks early. He spent the next 18 days on life support.
“I knew working there that there could be cases where a mom couldn’t get pregnant for years and years and had to do fertility. Then the next thing you know they’re back in the office saying, ‘I’m not feeling good. I don’t know what’s wrong,’ and they’re pregnant. And they say, ‘I couldn’t be. I just paid several thousand dollars for my fertility baby, and now I’m pregnant?’ I just thought I wasn’t going to be one of those moms,” Moore said.
Moore was still breast-feeding Cooper when she started feeling sick. It’s only an old wives tale that breast-feeding prevents pregnancy. Still, an old wives tale with Moore’s history of not being able to get pregnant on her own had her thinking her nausea couldn’t be from pregnancy. Until her toothbrush gave her away, that is.
“It had been so long, we’d always had problems, plus I was breast-feeding. I thought, surely it wasn’t going to happen. But one of the telltale signs was I gagged on my toothbrush. One of my friends said, ‘Wasn’t the last time you gagged on a toothbrush when you were pregnant with Cooper?’ Sure enough, I was pregnant,” she said.
With Moore’s history of every other pregnancy having problems, she was nervous with Carter, but nothing in her early pregnancy gave her cause for concern.
“I never really got too sick with him, with any of them, really. The pregnancy at the beginning for most part went fairly well,” she said.
By summer, about 27 weeks along, Moore started having severe upper abdominal pain. She was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, which hadn’t happened with Kade or Cooper. The pain was something she hadn’t experienced before, either.
Carter practices his grip with the help of Tricia Friel on Monday. At 2.5 years old, Carter is overcoming his developmental delays.
“I was doubled over downstairs sobbing. It was worse than childbirth so I knew something has to be wrong,” Moore said.
She spent a week in the hospital undergoing a barrage of tests, all of which were inconclusive. After she’d been home about two weeks, she started becoming very attuned to the baby’s movement — or lack thereof. He never moved much throughout the pregnancy, but he was particularly inactive by that point. Moore tried all the tricks that are usually recommended to get babies more active — take a warmer-than-usual shower, drink orange juice, lie down on your left side. None of it worked.
The next day, while housecleaning, Moore said she just suddenly knew something was very wrong.
“It honestly sounds funny but it was like the voice of God, like, ‘You need to go to the hospital now,’” Moore said. “Rusty was outside washing the car. All of a sudden I just kind of decided it was time. He didn’t argue about it one bit. He didn’t even finish washing the car.”
At the hospital, another round of tests commenced. Carter’s heartbeat was very hard to find, and far too low in her abdomen. Her abdomen had swollen, indicating Carter wasn’t processing amniotic fluid properly. Attempts to induce fetal activity for a stress test didn’t work.
Even after all that Moore said it was a biophysical profile — a special ultrasound — that finally made the severity of the situation sink in. The tech had started the scan with the screen angled a little toward Moore. During the exam, he turned the screen so she couldn’t see it. He left the room without saying anything. Two of Moore’s friends working in obstetrics were on duty at the time. One walked into Moore’s room crying.
“She was just sobbing and said, ‘I’m sorry, this is so unprofessional of me, but there’s something really wrong.’ He wasn’t breathing anymore,” Moore said.
Blood bank, March of Dimes to the rescue
Kay Gardner works with Carter Moore to pronounce and sign colors. He is working to strengthen underdeveloped neck and mouth muscles.
Moore was airlifted to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage and Carter was delivered via an emergency Cesarean section. He was born at 8 p.m. Aug. 11, 2007 — 10 weeks early. He weighed 3 pounds, 11 ounces.
Doctors didn’t know how long he hadn’t been breathing or how extensive the damage would be to his heart, lungs and other organs. They realized Carter’s body had been rejecting his own blood — a condition known as feto-internal hemorrhage — forcing it out of his body through the umbilical cord back into Moore. That was the source of her intense abdominal pain.
Carter was on life support for 18 days, longer than even most preemies weighing a pound or two less than he did at birth. He had seven blood transfusions, eye surgery to protect against blindness and underwent a surfactant therapy treatment, which was developed by the March of Dimes, to help his lungs function properly. He stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit at Providence for two months.
The medical staff was wonderful and Carter started to rebound, Moore said, but doctors cautioned against being too optimistic.
“He had some major heart and lung issues for a while. He didn’t have good oxygen flow for who knows how long. It was kind of a rough road for him there for a while,” Moore said. “They did brain scans and he had some minor bleeding when he was born, which cleared up on its own. And he had some extra fluid between his brain and skull. That’s a sign there could be some developmental issues. They kind of gave us the worst-case scenario — he might have cerebral palsy or seizures. There are things that definitely can be long-term problems.” Continue reading