PIERZ - Spend five minutes with Ella Otremba and it's easy to see why the nearly 2-year-old Pierz girl has captivated the hearts of her parents, Cindy and Wes, and her siblings, Dominique, 11; and Damien, 13.
Ella loves to host tea parties, ride her toy riding horse and throw the laundry down the laundry chute - whether it's dirty or clean.
"She's the center of everything we do," Cindy said of Ella.
"She's cute and she's fun to be around," Dominque added, speaking of her little sister.
"I love her," her big brother, Damien, simply said.
Ella, everyone agrees, is a miracle.
Ella Otremba played with her talking Elmo doll Monday in her Pierz home. Ella's family is the March of Dimes ambassador family for the May 2 benefit walk at Central Lakes College in Brainerd. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Cindy went into premature labor on Mother's Day, May 13, 2007. Ella was born six weeks early, weighing in at 3 pounds, 13 ounces, at St. Cloud Hospital. It was discovered in an ultrasound at St. Cloud that Ella had stopped moving so she was delivered immediately via an emergency C-section. During her delivery, doctors learned Ella's esophagus wasn't connected to her stomach and instead of having three vessels in her umbilical cord, she had two, a cord abnormality.
"Why she's here is anybody's guess," said her mom. "There have been so many times when she shouldn't have been here."
Wes and Cindy Otremba hugged their youngest daughter, Ella, at their Pierz home. Ella, who turns 2 on May 13, was born 6 weeks premature and continues to struggle with medical issues but remains a happy girl. The Otrembas are the March of Dimes ambassador family for the Brainerd walk on May 2 at Central Lakes College in Brainerd. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Ella was transported to the University of Minnesota Medical Center where two days after her birth she underwent surgery to correct her esophagus. She also was diagnosed with tracheomalacia, where the cartilage in her windpipe had not developed properly. Instead of being rigid, the walls of her trachea are floppy.
When Ella came home from the hospital, her parents took turns staying up with her and watching her sleep. Ella also was hooked up to a heart monitor. Despite this, about two weeks later, Ella stopped breathing - her windpipe had collapsed - and went limp in her mother's arms at 4 a.m. She was about 2 months old.
Cindy performed CPR on her daughter and was able to revive her before emergency personnel arrived about 15 minutes after her son Damien called 911. Ella was taken to Cuyuna Regional Medical Center and airlifted to the University of Minnesota Medical Center. Doctors performed surgery on her windpipe to strengthen it, but she stopped breathing and had to be revived 13 times during her hospital stay. Doctors performed surgery on her windpipe to stabilize it. When Ella came home about three weeks later she had around-the-clock nursing care for a while but Cindy would always sleep on the couch near her baby girl, whose bassinet and monitors were set up in the living room.
If you go
What: March of Dimes March for Babies 5-mile fundraising walk.
When: 10 a.m. May 2 at Central Lakes College in Brainerd. Registration begins at 9 a.m. Walkers may register the morning of the walk or online at www.marchforbabies.org. Last year 88 walkers raised $22,375.
Why: To support community programs that help mothers have healthy, full-term pregnancies and fund research to find answers to serious problems that threaten babies.
For more information, contact Becky Stock at (218) 824-1817 or e-mail her at email@example.com or call the March of Dimes office at (320) 252-1156.
Because of her premature birth, Ella is highly susceptible to getting sick; a cold can become life-threatening very quickly. She's had pneumonia five times during the past six months. Ella returns to the university hospital next Wednesday to find out if she's aspirating into her lungs. Doctors believe the small wedge-shaped middle lobe of her right lung has collapsed, causing her respiratory problems. She receives five nebulizer treatments each day and is continually on antibiotics. Her parents don't take her out in public except on rare occasions so she doesn't get sick. When she is out among crowds, Ella wears a mask.
The Otrembas own their own business, Central Minnesota Insulation, and Cindy works as a teller at Crow Wing Power. She got involved with the March of Dimes through Crow Wing Power and is a member of the committee that organizes the Brainerd fundraising walk. Last year she and Ella walked in the annual event as part of the Crow Wing Power team but this year her entire family will walk as the March of Dimes ambassador family.
Cindy said without the March of Dimes many premature babies like Ella would not have a chance at life.
"I think what the March of Dimes does is very important," said Cindy. "I wish more people knew what they do."
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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