DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) - An Action 2 News reporter and her husband are happy to have their three little girls under one roof after a story of survival against the odds.
Braelyn takes a rest at home. WBAY Photo.
Kristyn Allen and her husband, Greg, say their twin babies, Brielle and Braelyn, are growing stronger after they were hit by a respiratory virus in February.
Braelyn was hit the hardest by an illness called RSV. She fought for her life in the Intensive Care Unit at Children's Hospital of Milwaukee. Doctors surgically attached an ECMO machine that pumped blood out of her body, oxygenated it and then recirculated it. It gave her little lungs a chance to heal.
Now at four months, Braelyn has shocked doctors with her recovery.
Kristyn and Greg invited us in their home and shared the heartwarming homecoming.
"When you think about where Braelyn was, and many times that we didn't know if she was going to make it, or it didn't look like she was going to make it... and not every family who has a critically ill child gets to bring their child home, and we did. And I'm going to make sure she has a good life," Kristyn says about her daughter Braelyn.
The family has experienced a range of emotions over the past few months as Brielle and Braelyn fought serious respiratory viruses.
Brielle bounced back rather quickly. Braelyn's case was more serious. She was hospitalized for 10 weeks.
Doctors gave her the all clear to go home on the Friday before Easter.
"I mean, she got released on Good Friday. That's a good Friday," says Kristyn's husband Greg.
That's when the couple's older daughter, 3-year-old Bailey, got to see her little sister for the first time in weeks.
"She looks up at you, and you know that it's your daughter again," Greg says.
The family is together at home, but they have a new normal. Braelyn gets eight medications morning, noon and night. The rest of the house is decorated with oxygen tanks. The hum of the machines remind the family that Braelyn is breathing comfortably.
One machine pumps nutrients through a feeding tube.
"Sometimes when I think about it, I can't believe they just give people and say, here you go," Kristyn remarks.
When Kristyn wheeled Braelyn out of Children's Hospital of Milwaukee, she showed the world that this little girl is a survivor. Kristyn researched the risks and survival rates of patients on ECMO. A recent study shows only half of pediatric ECMO patients survive until discharge.
Kristyn met the doctor who transported Braelyn to Milwaukee in February. Kristyn asked him just how dire Braelyn's situation was at the time.
"He said, 'I honestly didn't think that she was going to survive the transport from Green Bay to Milwaukee.'
"He said, 'I thought for sure we were going to be pulling over.' I cried and I hugged him and I thanked him for... there was a lot of people... but I thanked him for his role in saving her life," Kristyn says.
"Perspective" is a word that's meaningful to this family.
"Somebody always has it worse than you," Kristyn says. "There's a million people out there going through far worse things than this even, and that's not lost on me."
During their time at Children's Hospital and Ronald McDonald House, Kristyn and Greg befriended other families with young children fighting illnesses.
"It's sometimes not fair who gets to live and who dies," Kristyn says as tears fill her eyes.
Greg says, "It was extremely humbling to talk to other families and see what they're going through, and knowing we're not going through much compared to what they are. And that they're waiting for heart transplants, liver transplants, and they're losing their kids. And for us to make it over that step has been pretty amazing in itself."
Kristyn and Greg leaned on their faith--hard. They remember a conversation with their church deacon one of the first nights in the hospital.
"I said to him, I don't know how God can let this happen. He said, 'God didn't let this happen. He's seeing it through you.'
"And he said, 'I want you to look for God in the good.' So that's one thing I kept through me the entire time. I went through this and I found God over and over again."
They credit expert medical staff for helping Braelyn, and they thank the community in Northeast Wisconsin for supporting them.
"Someone sent me a card with a picture of the Virgin Mary on it and said she went and prayed for my family at the Shrine of Good Help," Kristyn says. "And just that somebody cares enough about my family, there's really no words for it. I just want to thank everyone for their support."
Kristyn's father, Doug, spent most of the last few months helping out his daughter.
"It's amazing from the way she was when we first got here to now, just 100 percent difference," Doug Allen says.
The girls are growing stronger and healthier by the day. Kristyn hopes to return to work soon.
Kristyn had to take a leave of absence from work and is not collecting a paycheck at this time. Kristyn's cousin Deanna Newman has started a GoFundMe. Any money raised will help Greg and Kristyn care for Braelyn. CLICK HERE to donate.