INDIANAPOLIS (WXIN) – Baby Kendall Jurnakins was finally able to go home Thursday after being in an Indiana hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for a total of 460 days.

Kendall’s mother, Sparkle Jurnakins, went into labor at 25 weeks pregnant. She didn’t know she was pregnant until she hit 23 weeks.

“The doctor came in and said ‘We’re going to have to take him, he might not make it, but to save your life, we have to take him,'” explained Jurnakins.

Her blood pressure was not regulating and her diabetes was being affected. The mother said everything was “too high” and the doctors said they didn’t want her life to be at risk, so it was time to perform an emergency C-section.

After delivery, Jurnakins was not able to see her baby for four or five days. “I just kept asking questions like ‘Is he still alive?,'” she said.

Kendall was born Dec. 11, 2020 weighing only 15 ounces – small enough to fit in the palm of a hand. He was immediately taken to the NICU. While there, he was treated for multiple complications linked to premature birth. He celebrated his first birthday, got his first tooth, and started crawling all within those 460 days in the hospital.

“I knew he was in good hands,” said Jurnakins. “He just wasn’t at home.” 

“We really had to have hard discussions with his family throughout his stay. But the second he got his tracheostomy I saw that boy turn into a completely different person,” said Dr. Melissa Leedy, a NICU physician at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital.

Leedy was the physician who sat down with Sparkle Jurnakins and her husband, Keith, and told them that a tracheostomy was the way to help Kendall breathe easier. “That boy was night and day. To look at a baby that is just living life to breathe, and then to have a baby that is living life is just really, really amazing to see,” Leedy said.

For now, Kendall will still remain with a tracheostomy tube to help him breathe. He will also stay on a feeding tube.

The Ascension NICU staff said in a statement, “We congratulate the Jurnakins family on a miraculous recovery and celebrate Kendall’s bright future with full hearts”.