Izayah’s Story Part I: Toddler, Mother Make Journey Home After Early Life at Renown

Izayah, Kayla & Elsie

Young mother Kayla Dean was almost dreamily reeling off the list of things that she and her son, Izayah Thomas, would be doing once he was home from his hospital stay.

“Having him wake up at home and taking naps together and having playtime on the floor, or taking a walk to the park,” Kayla said. “I’m very excited to have him home.”

For many toddlers, playing with Mom or heading out to the park is a given, maybe even taken for granted.

Not for Izayah – he has never been home. For his entire life, Izayah has been a patient at Renown Children’s Hospital.

The next chapter of Kayla and Izayah’s lives began on Aug. 12, when he was discharged from Renown. Izayah turned 19 months old on Aug. 2, the same day that nurses at Renown Children’s Hospital hosted a belated “baby shower” for Izayah and Kayla, a 24-year-old Reno resident.

The loving hugs and gifts for Izayah were the happy ending to a sometimes arduous and heartbreaking journey for Kayla. She started having complications from her pregnancy at about 16 weeks. During weekly visits to a specialist, it was discovered that Izayah had IUGR, or Intra-Uterine Growth Restriction.  

“There were too many variables in Izayah’s heart rate,” Kayla said, as she explained the side effects of IUGR. “He would dip down and then move back up. Then, at times he wasn’t getting any oxygen or nutrients flowing through the umbilical cord. It’s supposed to be constant and sometimes it would just stop. So, he wasn’t growing properly.”

On Dec 22, 2012 Kayla was hospitalized at Renown at the 26-week point of her pregnancy. On Jan. 2, 2013 she had an emergency C-section. The emergency surgery need was startling: Izayah’s heart rate dropped to 40 bpm for 20 minutes.

Izayah was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for five months, Jan. to May 2012. In late May of that year, Izayah was moved to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, where he stayed until his Aug. 22 discharge.

Kayla had a stark answer for what was going through her mind in Izayah’s earliest days: “Fear. So much fear.”

Kayla said she was told that he was the smallest baby to be delivered at Renown in recent memory.

“He was 365 grams, which is 13 oz. – not even a pound,” she said.

Kayla described how Izayah looked after he was born: “His ears were still inside his head. His eyes were fused shut. He had no nails.  And seeing that . . . it’s amazing, unbelievable to watch  him grow every day.”

Kayla strengthened her faith in the face of concerns about Izayah’s quality of life – that he would have cerebral palsy or other genetic disorders, suffer brain damage, or be blind or deaf.  One of the darkest times was earlier this year, when Izayah took a turn for the worse.

“He ‘coded’ three times a day for a week,” said Kayla, referring to the Code Blue that is called when a patient needs to be resuscitated.

It was then that Kayla said she “almost came to a kind of acceptance, as if Izayah was passing away. I’m lucky that I have a really great church family (Summit Christian Church) and I had the church come in and get Izayah dedicated, which is like a baptism. I was coming to terms with it: ‘God, if you are going to take him, then take him home and free him from the pain.’”

“That’s when he absolutely turned around.”

To read the second part of Izayah’s journey view Izayah’s Story Part II: Mother Discovers New ‘Family,’ Looks Forward to Future



  1. Kayla, God bless you, your son and all the nurses in NICU & PICU. So wonderful to hear the good news of you being able to take Mr. Man home. Prayers and hopes of wonderful years ahead for you and your family. Frankie Lynn Young's Auntie, Cami Stites
    • Dear Cami, Thank you so much for your comment. It truly means a great deal. We will be sure to pass along your kind words.