WYTOPITLOCK, Maine — More than three years later, Angela Wortman still chokes up and cries when she recalls how Henry Arlo Wortman was born 13 weeks prematurely.
But the 31-year-old mother of three also chuckles a little when she describes what her now-3-year-old son looked like in the delivery room at Penobscot Valley Hospital in Lincoln.
“He was the size of a Coke can with arms and legs,” she said of the 1-pound, 7-ounce, 11-inch-long baby doctors gave a 50 percent chance of living beyond two days.
After spending 120 days in Eastern Maine Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, one of only two Level 3 NICU and pediatric ICU facilities in the state, Henry Wortman left the Bangor hospital Sept. 4, 2008, at 7 pounds, 8 ounces, perhaps looking more like a 2-liter bottle with arms and legs.
“Every time I talk about the miracle of Henry, I tear up,” Wortman said. “I was told by doctors in Bangor that this baby wouldn’t live past 48 hours, but he proved them wrong.“
EMMC’s NICU 24-hour mobile unit, which transported Henry, and 80 percent of the equipment and supplies used by the hospital’s NICU and PICU facilities are paid for with funds raised by Children’s Miracle Network, a 28-year-old national nonprofit foundation that has been supporting Maine hospitals since 1988.
That’s why, even though the Wortmans probably won’t attend Saturday evening’s Waterfront Concerts benefit show featuring Beatles tribute band Yesterday Productions, Grammy-winning conductor Lucas Richman and the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, they’re hoping many do.
Proceeds from concert ticket sales will go to EMMC’s pediatric services through the Children’s Miracle Network.
Henry, who is Angela and husband Willie’s middle son, almost didn’t make it from Lincoln to Bangor.
“It was a 40-minute ride and they almost lost him three times,” said Angela Wortman. “They had to put him in a quart-size bag just to keep him warm. His lungs were only a quarter developed.”
Henry was the first child taken to the hospital by EMMC’s 24-hour NICU mobile unit.
Angela was unable to accompany him because doctors told her she would have to recuperate four days before being strong enough to travel to Bangor. So Willie and relatives went to EMMC.
Angela left Lincoln two days earlier than doctors recommended — on Mother’s Day — to be with her baby boy.
“It was so scary, and I feel so blessed because when I was in the NICU unit, I saw more than one family go through the loss of a child,” Angela recalled. “A child in the next room from Henry the same size as him died … Henry was still touch-and-go at that time. Thank God for the people at Penobscot Valley Hospital and Eastern Maine Medical [Center]. They all wear wings as far as we’re concerned.”
Eighteen months ago, the Wortmans needed NICU’s services again for the Dec. 1, 2009, birth of Michael Alex, who was born 5½ weeks early, also by cesarean section, but weighed a much less perilous 5 pounds, 3 ounces and measured 18 inches. He had to spend only 18 days in NICU.
Now both boys are the picture of health as they get into everything, play with water guns, follow older brother Josh, and “drive their parents crazy,” according to Angela Wortman.
“I remember them calling me at work and telling me I had to get there immediately,” said Willie Wortman, recalling how close to death Henry was. “They told me I had to choose between letting him live and pulling the plug. I made the right choice. It’s hard to believe how well they’re both doing now.”
Waterfront Concerts promoter Alex Gray of Old Town has high hopes for this weekend’s concert.
“I guess if there’s one show we’re doing on the waterfront this year for all the right reasons and we’re hoping does really well, it’s this one,” he said.
Gray, along with officials at EMMC and the Children’s Miracle Network, also are hoping for more corporate, private and small-business sponsorship.
“Alex Gray’s goddaughter was a premature baby who needed these kinds of life-saving skills and machines to survive, and his aunt is very involved with EMMC and charities like this,” said Josh Scroggins, Children’s Miracle Network director. “We have a few options for sponsors, anywhere from $500 for nonbusiness sponsorships to $4,000 reception sponsorships.”
In return, sponsors get VIP ticket packages that include pre-event receptions and meals while The Stone Doctors, a band made up of physicians, plays live, as well as meet-and-greet sessions with the musicians.
Scroggins said families such as the Wortmans show how critical the need is for EMMC’s NICU and PICU facilities.
“We treat 200 babies a year on average from surrounding hospitals and another 200 from the local area born at EMMC,” he said. “And most 1-2 pound babies are going to be in there for 100 days on average. That’s a tremendous toll on parents, especially when they live an hour or more away.”
Angela Wortman stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Bangor while Henry and Mike were in NICU. Willie was working 12-hour days, six days a week, for logging companies in Chester and Lincoln. He drove down to Bangor after work late Friday afternoon to be with Angela and either Henry or Michael, would drive back Saturday morning to work a full day, and then return Saturday night to spend Sunday with his family before driving back Sunday night to begin his workweek anew.
“They were really good to us, and if it wasn’t for those people at Penobscot Valley and Eastern Maine, Henry wouldn’t be here today,” Willie Wortman said. “I don’t know much about that concert, but I hope anyone who has a chance to go goes, and hopefully more babies in other families will be saved.”