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'A Christmas miracle' | NICU baby goes home for the holidays

Little Stella Mowrey was on a life support machine for five days but made an amazing comeback

ST. LOUIS — At St. Louis Children's Hospital, there's a lot of good in this good morning.

After three months in the neonatal intensive care unit, little Stella Mowrey is checking out.

"We're so excited that we get to go home," said her dad Shawn Mowrey.

It's a four-hour drive back to their house in Kansas City. But that's a short distance considering how far they've come.

Stella was born with CDH, congenital diaphragmatic hernia.

"What it means is that during fetal development, the diaphragm for some genetic reasons that we don't completely understand does not close all the way," explained Dr. Tasnim Najaf.

It's a life-threatening condition because CDH babies often have underdeveloped lungs and are unable to breathe effectively. For parents, it's both alarming and confusing.

"We were definitely there to lean on each other and you know she helped me through everything and I helped her, and we just kinda stood tall together and and didn't give up," Shawn Mowrey told us.

A few days after she was born, Stella had surgery to repair the defect.

"And then two days following her surgery things kind of started going downhill," said an emotional Alexandria Mowrey, Stella's mom. "She got a really bad infection and they had to put her on life support."

"Yeah, the infection. That turned into five days of being on the heart, lung bypass, the ECMO," explained Shawn.

ECMO is a life support machine that replaces the function of the heart and lungs.

No one so little should have to go through so much, but Stella is a fighter and soon her setback became a comeback.

"She's sassy and she wants things her own way and she will tell you what she wants," laughed Alexandria.

And apparently what Stella wanted was to be home for the holidays. And that's exactly where she's going to be.

"There is no better feeling than knowing that we get to go home and we get to take our baby," said Alexandria. "We've gone through so much and we get to be a family for the first time."

The best Christmas gifts aren't always wrapped in paper.

"She is going to do great," predicted Dr. Najaf. "I anticipate that she's going to make quick progress and we plan to see her back next year when she's a year old for a birthday."

Stella won't remember this Christmas, but her parents will always consider this the best present they ever got.

"She is definitely our little Christmas miracle," said Shawn.

The Mowreys have started a GoFundMe page to help pay for medical bills. Those interesting in contributing can click here.

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