Parents of preemie have big dreams for their little boy - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Parents of preemie have big dreams for their little boy

The Miltenbergers are focused on getting Jack home to where he belongs. The Miltenbergers are focused on getting Jack home to where he belongs.

When the Miltenbergers planned their family, they never thought one of their babies would spend his first year in a hospital hooked up to machines, but that's the reality for the young couple from Elk Point, South Dakota.

When Ben and Erin Miltenberger talk about their son, Jack, their eyes light up.

"He likes to flirt with the nurses," says Ben Miltenberger, Jack's father.

"He's just a happy, content baby," says Erin Miltenberger, Jack's mother.

But behind their smiles, is a lot of heartbreak.

Jack was born 16 weeks premature. At the time, he was the youngest gestational aged baby ever to be born at UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's in Sioux City.

"He did awesome," says Erin. "They were surprised how long he did so well."

He weighed just one pound eight ounces and was 12 inches long.

"He was about from my finger to about there or so. I could fit him in my hands," says Ben.

He was the size of a bottle of pop. For the first 48 hours of his life, doctors gave Jack a 50-50 chance at surviving.

"He made it through those and knowing right away, if he could make it through the 48 hours he could make it through quite a bit more and he did," says Ben.

He spent the first three months of his life in the NICU battling a chronic lung disease. He was transferred to Sioux Falls to have a trach put in, but things took a turn for the worse. Jack came down with pneumonia. Doctors found large cysts in his lungs that were pushing his heart over and deflated his left lung.

"In March, he came down with pneumonia. They told us he was going to die," says Erin.

He was flown to a special children's hospital in Ohio, where he's been since then, hooked up to ventilators, machines, and monitors.

"It would be great just to pick him up and walk around like you would with a normal baby, but that's not an opportunity that we've had yet," says Erin.

But Jack is fighter.

"From the day he was born he's overcome a lot and he still overcoming a lot," says Ben.

"He's probably the strongest person I've ever met," says Erin. "I couldn't imagine having to go through all of the things that he's going through and he's so strong and he's doing everything right."

With Jack in Ohio, the Miltenbergers are 850 miles away from him in their Elk Point, South Dakota home. They're forced to divide their time between their jobs, their five-year-old son, Kale, and caring for Jack.

"I don't want to say I've gotten used to it, but I've learned to manage it," says Ben.

Even though Jack's condition has taken an emotional and financial toll, they have big dreams for their little boy.

"Just that he gets to play like a normal kid and he gets to do everything that a normal kid gets to do and he grows up and he's happy," says Erin.

But right now, they're just focused on one thing, getting Jack home where he belongs.

Both Ben and Erin say they would not have been able to get through the last year without the love and support from their friends, family, nurses and doctors.

They also say the Children's Miracle Network at St. Luke's played a major role in the first year of Jack's life.

CMN offers treatment, services, equipment, and health care to Siouxland kids.

There's an easy way to help support CMN. Thursday is Miracle Treat Day. All you have to do is go to a Siouxland Dairy Queen, and buy a blizzard. A portion of the proceeds will go to CMN for children's healthcare needs in Siouxland.

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