Michigan Family Finally Welcomes Home Baby After Spending Her 1st 511 Days of Life in Hospital

Katie Gatewood holding baby Charleigh and her husband Gary Gatewood holding their 11 month old baby and their oldest daughter on a lawn in front of a large sign os a teddy bear holding a heart that reads "Thankful for you" and text at the bottom reading "511 Days"
Katie Gatewood

Baby Charleigh Gatewood finally came home after experiencing a long list of health complications.

After 511 days in the hospital, a family is welcoming home one of their smallest but strongest new additions. 

Charleigh Gatewood was born almost 18 months ago in Michigan, and after spending the entirety of her life in a hospital, she finally got the chance to go home to her family on May 9, her mother, Katie, tells Inside Edition Digital. 

“Having Charleigh home has been surreal. It was a day that we never thought we would see,” Katie says. “To have her here and have her flourishing is incredible.”

After nine years of trying for a baby and all the ups and downs that came with it, Katie and Gary Gatewood found out that Katie was pregnant and that they were going to have little Charleigh.

The couple knew early on that Charleigh had complications with her health that caused her organs to stay stuck in the umbilical cord rather than going back to her body, Katie tells Inside Edition Digital.

Unfortunately, this was only the first in a long list of health problems the baby would face.

“At every appointment after that, it seemed like we got more bad news, more bad news, more bad news. Week 22, 24, something like that, we learned that Charleigh had two heart defects,” Katie says. “We knew those early on, and we knew that that meant we had to deliver at a [good] children's hospital to make sure that she was going to survive.”

To make matters worse, Katie had to deliver Charleigh while she was positive for COVID-19. Gary was unable to be in the room and due to additional complications Charleigh was rushed to surgery the second she was born, Katie tells Inside Edition Digital.

“When Charleigh came out, her liver, her intestines, and her heart were all exposed, just out there in the open. She was rushed off to surgery,” Katie says. “I didn't get to meet her, see her, and because I was COVID-positive, I actually didn't get to meet my baby until three days after she was born, and my husband wasn't allowed to be in the delivery room with me.”

Charleigh spent the next several months trying to overcome the plethora of health problems she had, and when things seemed to be getting better to the point where maybe she could go home, she’d get hit with new complications. 

The family got to the point of not being able to say ‘home’ around Charleigh out of fear she’d start having complications after doing well. 

“We're not superstitious people but we are superstitious people,” says Katie. “We felt like if we kept saying the word 'home', she was just going to keep pulling fast ones on us, so we renamed it 'the zoo'.”

Charleigh was finally able to go to the ‘zoo’ on May 9. She went home to one older sister and one younger sister, a baby that Katie and Gary had just 11 months after Charleigh was born. 

“We didn't anticipate getting pregnant that quickly, but here we are. We have Irish twins, they are 11 months apart,” Katie tells Inside Edition Digital.

Katie says Charleigh has been doing well at home, she loves her sisters and has an obsession with Moana. 

Both Katie and Gary underwent lots of training so they’d be able to care for Charleigh once she was out of the hospital. Katie says a nurse comes by to help out but caring for three kids can still be difficult.

“We have one [nurse] that's hired that's been here quite a bit and has helped a lot. For dad and I, it's just a learning curve.” Katie says. “We have to figure out how to split our time between three girls and an infant that doesn't understand when she's screaming, if I can't give her a bottle, because I'm doing something with Charleigh.”

Despite this, the family is optimistic and thankful for all that the hospital was able to do to care for Charleigh. When the Gatewoods heard that the hospital had run out of teddy bears, they knew just how to thank them for all the hard work they put into Charleigh.

“It was a lot of back and forth the whole time we were there, like how are we going to get back to this hospital for one, keeping our baby alive, and two, basically becoming part of our family,” Katie says. “I took to social media that day, and I thought maybe it would just be a couple of things here and there and it ended up, we had 400 teddy bears within the first 72 hours. And I was like, 'All right, well, I'm not going to give up.'"

Katie also collected pacifiers and other stuffed animals to donate to the hospital through Charleigh Snuggles. She tells Inside Edition Digital she has probably collected close to 1,700 stuffed animals and 125 pacifiers. 

Next, they hope to do something to thank their home-care nurse. Their nurse was the one to create a GoFundMe for them to hopefully raise enough money to get a medical crib for Charleigh. 

“Right now, the way that her crib is that she has here, the setup isn't conducive with us changing her ostomy or her trach or anything. So we're literally doing it on the living room floor on a sterile mat and everything,” Katie tells Inside Edition Digital.

Handling this whole experience has not been easy on the family but Katie cites their strength as what helped get them through it.

“What got me through, strength, in the beginning,” Katie says. “I found strength that I didn't know I had, Gary found strength that he didn't know he had, but when it comes to your kids, you're not really given any other option.”

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