Loving My Scars: A Former Preemie’s Story

April 3, 2017

by Kaylee Gort

“How did you get that scar?” a curious child asks.

She is referring to the “V” shaped scar on the right side of my stomach, just above my hips. While others have commented that the scar is “weird,” I have never found shame in it.

“Are you talking about this one?” I ask, just to be sure.

She nods.

I’m at the pool with kids I’m babysitting, and in my bathing suit, revealing my stomach and scar. The child’s question is one that I have been asked my whole life. “I had surgery,” I say. “Because I was born early.”

I think about all the babies who are born early, all the anxious parents who spend sleepless months in a hospital, and the hundreds of doctors and nurses who spend countless hours working to ensure that the premature babies continue to breathe. My twin and I were two of those babies.

kaylee gort, preemie in NICU, micro preemie in NICU, former preemie

photo courtesy Kaylee Gort

We were born at 24 weeks. When you are just 24 weeks pregnant, your baby is about the size of an ear of corn. Doctors gave our mother the news that no parent would ever want to hear: “Your twins have only about a ten percent chance of survival, and if they do survive, a plethora of severe health problems are likely.”

My twin, Kara, and I came into this world 4 months early on September 14, 1998. Kara weighed 1.06 pounds, and I weighed 1.04 pounds. Each one of us could fit in the palm of our dad’s hand. Our parents were only allowed to put their fingers into the incubator box to touch us. At one point I dropped down to 12 ounces, the weight of a can of soda.

Within two days, sadly and heartbreakingly, the doctors informed my parents that Kara had level four brain bleed, leaving her with almost no brain activity. Kara died, and my family was able to hold her, love her and say their final goodbyes. Then she became my Guardian Angel.

kaylee gort, preemie in NICU, micro preemie in NICU, former preemie

photo courtesy Kaylee Gort

I gave my parents plenty of scares when I would often stop breathing, making my skin turn purplish, or when my heart rate would drop. The sound of alarms going off sent fear through their hearts.

Several days after my sister passed away, my parents got an early morning phone call and another big scare… I had ruptured my bowel and needed emergency surgery. The surgeon informed them that I had a five percent chance of making it and that they should prepare for the worst.

Family and friends said their final goodbyes before I went in for surgery, and everyone prepared themselves in the event I wasn’t going to survive. The doctors informed my family that if I were to survive the surgery, I would be unresponsive, in a wheelchair and suffer many problems throughout my life. But, as I always did, I fought through it and survived with no complications . 100 days later, on Christmas Eve, I got released to go home after I had beat insurmountable odds.

Kaylee Gort, former preemie

Today Kaylee is a high school senior who plans to study occupational therapy or nursing.

I do not remember my months in the hospital. I do not remember all the needle pricks that gave me permanent scars along my wrists, ankles, and stomach. Still, today I am grateful for my scars. I am grateful that I am alive and forever grateful to all of the nurses and doctors who saved my life. My dad has always told everyone “Kaylee is a promise to our friends and family that life does go on. She is our miracle.”

Being a micro preemie, I do still have complications. I still have scars from the surgeries and IV lines. But being a preemie is the best thing that God could have given me. It gives me a spirit to fight and never stop. It gives me compassion for those going through painful situations. It gives me passion for babies that never get to see the light of day.

I want to be a occupational therapist for children and babies, or maybe a NICU nurse. I know that I can give hope to families of premature babies with my story and working to make miracles happen for them as well.


Check out this cool profile Kaylee’s school did on her!

If you can’t see the video, watch it on YouTube.