“Here I stand hours on end,
My days and nights are starting to blend.
Hoping and praying our great Lord saves my new best friend.
My eyes are bloodshot, my heart aches for you,
Here I stand waiting for the day I actually hold you.”

— Poem by Ryan Heflin

Parents yearn to stay near to their preemie son

By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

John (Ryan) Heflin hovered in the Texoma Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where his 4 lbs. 11 oz. preemie son lay with an underdeveloped lung. Newborn Remington Lane Heflin was losing weight. Nearly three decades before, Ryan was a preemie himself who was given a 1 percent chance of surviving. Born at 1 lb. 7 oz., the medical professionals went to work immediately to provide Ryan with a shot at life. He had open-heart surgery at three days old, the first of many major procedures he would face.

Years later, the time came for Ryan to camp out in another hospital room, keeping watch over his own preemie son. His wife, Camillea, had yet to hold Remington. After an emergency C-section at a hospital in Durant, Oklahoma, she had remained there in recovery a few days. She was finally able to join them at the TMC NICU, but the couple did not have a place to stay close to their son.

Reba’s Ranch House provides comfort

The hospital helped set them up at Reba’s Ranch House. When Ryan and Camillea arrived, the front entrance reminded Ryan of a hotel, but once inside, it was just like a regular home.

“Jeri [Carosella] did our walk-through and told us we could go in and out of the house whenever we needed to,” Ryan says. “Her son had been premature, too. I told her my story and our boy’s story. By the end of the walk-through, we were hugging.”

Capturing the story for himself and his son

During the ordeal, Ryan’s aunt gave him a devotional journal. He began chronicling the minutes of his son’s new life, then continued to write of all the difficulties they endured for the pregnancy and birth. His writing turned to what he had experienced as a preemie.

The journal is developing into a book of the parallel journey of father and son, Ryan and Remington — preemies three decades apart.

“I just started writing,” Ryan says. “I’ve never written a book in my life, but I’m sure your heart can make you do things, and if it’s meant to be, it’s going to work out. I feel God has me here for a reason. Throughout the book, I tell the audience that it’s God’s life, and He has a story to tell. I’m just here to live it.”

The book includes the role Reba’s Ranch House played in the story.

“We were in the NICU all hours, going to visit Remington whenever,” Ryan says. “We couldn’t have done that if it weren’t for the house. We probably wouldn’t have been able to see our son every day.”

Good news at Christmas

With treatment at the NICU, Remington finally began gaining weight, and on Christmas Day 2019, Ryan and Camillea took him home. Someday, Remington can read his father’s book of their parallel preemie experiences.

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