From the day he entered the world 16 months ago, Ward Miles Miller exuded a big personality.
His disposition hardly matched his size — born 15 weeks early, he weighed a mere 1 pound, 8 ounces — yet his parents credit it for their son’s survival.
“He always had this fight in him,” said Lyndsey Miller, 32, of Westerville. “He’d let you know he didn’t want that stethoscope touching him. He was very vocal. He’d flail his arms and legs.”
A healthy 20 pounds now, Ward offers no hint of the challenges he withstood during his first 107 days of life.
But his father, a professional photographer, captured the miraculous journey on video.
“I knew I wanted to remember this,” said Benjamin Miller, 29.
As a birthday gift for his wife, Mr. Miller on Nov. 1 posted on his Facebook page a seven-minute video depicting their son’s progress.
And now — much like Ward’s personality — their son’s story has become larger-than-life.
The video has been shared and reshared so often that hundreds of thousands of people have wept their way through it.
It was featured this week on the Huffington Post, CNN.com and the Yahoo homepage, and the couple has been fielding requests for interviews from around the globe.
The response has been overwhelming, but the Millers appreciate the video’s power.
“People haven’t seen babies that small,” Mr. Miller told The Dispatch. “They find themselves rooting for this baby, and in each scene he is doing a little better.”
The family’s journey dates from July 16, 2012, when Mrs. Miller, a dental assistant, began feeling cramps. She initially shrugged them off but went to see her doctor when they worsened.
“They told me, ‘We’re sending you to Riverside by squad, and you’re in labor,’ ” Mrs. Miller said. “It was scary.”
Ready or not, their first child arrived four hours later. The culprit: a suspected blood clot in his mother’s placenta.
Although doctors gave the baby less than a 50 percent chance of surviving without major deficits, Mr. Miller said, he and his wife never doubted Ward’s odds.
“As soon as the baby was born and the baby cried, Lyndsey looked at me and said, ‘He’s going to be OK,’ ” he recalled. “We could have been blind, but we had this confidence.”
In documenting their son’s health challenges, Mr. Miller didn’t shy from the scary times during Ward’s extended stay in the neonatal intensive-care unit, first at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital and then at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
But not until Ward went home on Oct. 31, 2012, did Mr. Miller realize how many emotional frames he had.
Though busy with work and the new baby, he knew he would compile a video for his wife.
Sneaking off at night to his home office, he quietly worked on the project throughout the fall, then surprised Lyndsey with the finished product the night of Oct. 31 — a year to the date they brought Ward home.
The video begins with a scene four days after their son’s birth — the day Mrs. Miller held him for the first time.
“It was scary but the most amazing feeling,” she said. “He was so tiny, and there were so many wires and tubes. When we got settled in (the chair), all that went away and it was just us two.”
The emotions she felt that day came rushing back as she watched the video, she said, making her appreciate even more the child who is learning to walk, loves to dance and regularly
chases the two family dogs.
When Mr. Miller posted the video — set to the song Happiness by the Fray — he wasn’t aware that Nov. 1 marked the start of National Prematurity Awareness Month.
With a link added to the Facebook page of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the video drew several thousand views earlier this month before interest waned.
Then, this week, the video somehow picked up a new national head of steam — generating an outpouring of support, Mr. Miller said, that “has blown us away.”
Parents of preemies have shared stories both inspiring and heartbreaking via email and on his Vimeo site.
Mrs. Miller hopes the video might help families who find themselves in similar circumstances.
“We want to give other preemie parents hope and tell them to keep the faith even when doctors give you crazy statistics,” she said. “They don’t always work out that way.”
At Ward’s 15-month checkup, Mrs. Miller said, the news was excellent.
“He is testing at his age level cognitively and for speech,” she said the doctor told her. “He is hitting all his milestones like he is supposed to.”
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