CADILLAC — Jilleanna Theobald and Casey Cartier have adopted a simple mantra to get them through the past several weeks: take it one day at a time.

The couple are the proud parents of Maxwell James Cartier, who was born Dec. 24, three months premature and weighing only 2 pounds, 13 ounces.

Since the day he was born, Max has had to remain at Helen Devos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.

Although he’s gained some weight and is now 4 pounds, 5 ounces, he has a long road ahead before he’s ready to meet the world.

“We’re not even close to leaving yet,‘ said Jilleanna, who has been told they won’t be able to go home with Max until at least his original due date, which is March 23.

She said Max’s lungs haven’t developed enough for him to breathe on his own, so he’s been hooked to either a ventilator or oscillator since birth.

To make matters even more challenging, Jilleanna said they recently found out Max has a hernia.

Although doctors aren’t sure why Max was born so premature, Theobald said she thinks it might have something to do with the umbilical cord, which was wrapped around his neck.

“It’s been pretty tough,‘ Jilleanna said. “Especially for a first-time mom. Nobody expects to be in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit).‘

Casey remembers seeing his son for the first time and thinking how small he was.

“He was smaller than my hand,‘ Casey said.

Jilleanna is staying with Max in Grand Rapids while Casey works to support the family back home in Cadillac.

During her stay in Grand Rapids, Jilleanna said they initially put her up in the Ronald McDonald House but last week, frigid conditions caused pipes in the sprinkler system to freeze and burst.

Although she wasn’t in the area of the house where the pipes burst, Jilleanna said they relocated her to a hotel about 30 minutes away from the hospital.

Casey said he tries to visit Jilleanna and Max in Grand Rapids as much as he can on the weekends but bills have been piling up.

“The world didn’t stop and neither did the bills,‘ Casey said. “We’ve been bouncing from one bill to another. We’ve been handling it as good as we can.‘

On the day they are able to finally bring Max back home, Casey said it will be a huge relief for the family.

“Although every time he sneezes, I’ll probably panic and say we have to take him to the hospital,‘ Casey said, only half-kiddingly.

Jilleanna said insurance has covered a lot of Max’s medical expenses but they won’t know how much they will be responsible for paying until they get a bill in the mail later on.

To help the couple cover various expenses associated with Max’s treatment, family members and friends are hosting a dinner fundraiser this Sunday at the Cadillac Junior High School cafeteria from 1 to 4 p.m.

Those who’d like more information about the fundraiser can contact Jilleanna’s mother, Julie, at (231) 942-8673.

Julie said there is no minimum donation amount to attend the dinner, just whatever a person can afford.

There will be spaghetti, breadsticks courtesy of BC Pizza, desserts and a silent auction.

Cadillac News