After three years of struggling to get pregnant, Kesha and Trent Huss were finally able to conceive with help from Carolinas HealthCare System’s Women’s Institute. But at 25 weeks, doctors discovered that her baby’s femur bone was shorter than expected. The ultrasound that followed revealed placenta restriction, which was suffocating the baby. Kesha was immediately admitted to the hospital and Dixie Jean Huss was born two days later.

She was immediately taken to the Levine Children’s Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where she spent 120 days.

Dixie Jean weighed only one pound, 10 ounces when she was born and her time in the NICU consisted of one complication after another. In addition to issues with her eyes and nutrition, Dixie Jean was diagnosed with necrotizing enterocolitis, a potentially fatal condition, and surgeons had to remove 31 centimeters of her intestines and most of her colon to save her life.

Later, a complication with her liver may have required a transplant, but instead she was able to participate in one of Levine Children’s Hospital’s clinical trials for a treatment that is currently awaiting FDA approval. “It was the only thing that could save her liver and it helped her so much,” Kesha says. “I really hope that they’re able to get it approved in the United States so other babies can benefit.”

During their four months at Levine Children’s Hospital, the Huss family relied on their network of friends and family for support.

“We left one day for a doctor’s appointment and didn’t come home for 120 days,” Kesha says. “We had so many friends and family who would pray with us every day. They would rotate coming to check on us every day. Our friends and family were absolutely wonderful.”

While Dixie Jean was in the NICU, her parents Kesha and Trent, who are from Lincolnton, NC, were living right across the street at the Ronald McDonald House.

“It’s a wonderful facility. My husband and I live over an hour away and I can’t imagine not being able to be there with her. That takes a lot of stress off of you,” Kesha says. “You aren’t in a familiar place, your whole world has been turned upside down and you want to be there to take care of your baby. Knowing that we had a place to stay, that we could be that close to her was really helpful.”

In August, Dixie Jean and her parents were finally able to make the trip back to Lincolnton. “She weighed 7 pounds 5 ounces when she came home,” Kesha says. “It was a rollercoaster, but we were so excited that she was finally able to come home.”

Since returning home, Dixie Jean has had a few more medical issues, including bladder reflux that doctors are continuing to monitor. A gallbladder removal when she was 10 months old sent the family back to Levine Children’s Hospital. But returning to the hospital has also meant returning to the care of a team that put the Huss family at ease.

“The doctors and the nurses, the whole staff in the NICU, were absolutely wonderful. They would sit and talk to you, answer any questions – and I was full of them! They would take the time to explain everything to me,” Kesha says. “Not only were they there to take care of her, they honestly took care of me and my husband. They will forever be a part of our family. They were wonderful.”

Today, Dixie Jean is a happy 1-year-old who loves to talk and clap.

“She loves to play. She loves to dance and sing,” Kesha says. “She is such a strong, happy baby. And she is such an inspiration to all of us.”