SOMERS POINT — It was a very special homecoming of sorts recently on the Shore Medical Center maternity floor. The maternity area was filled with smiles, hugs and some tears as well. The center of all the attention and emotion was Olivia Grace Koons, one of the smallest babies ever born at Shore.

To the surprise of Egg Harbor Township parents Andrea and Ron Koons, Olivia decided to enter the world very early. Both parents agreed that when they walked into the Shore emergency department back on Aug. 16, 2017, they were not quite ready for all that was about to happen. Today they say the right people were in the right place to help them and their baby.

Dr. Smart Uko, director of neonatology at Shore Medical Center, was on duty the day the Koons arrived. Maternity nurse Danielle Flukey, R.N., was also working. The nurse was aware that because Andrea Koons was only in her 24th week of pregnancy, there were risks of complications and Shore contacted Cooper Hospital and planned to send the soon-to-be mother there.

But baby Olivia had other plans. Before the team from Cooper could get there, Uko delivered the baby at Shore. The newborn weighed in at 1.5 pounds.

“Dr. Uko and the nurses remained calm and helped us so much, I get choked up just talking about it,” said Andrea Koons.

“We read the information on preemies and all the statistics were bad. We were scared, but everyone jumped right into action,” Ron Koons said.

Due to her fragile condition, once the helicopter arrived at Shore, Olivia was flown to the University of Pennsylvania, where she spent the next 152 days in the hospital before the parents would be able to bring their daughter home. Despite all the risks and potential complications, Olivia’s father says, “She surely beat those odds.”

Andrea Koons calls their daughter, “Our miracle baby.”

Uko smiled and said “Olivia is not just doing well for her age (21 months), she is ahead in some things for her age, like problem solving. That is a wonderful sign.”

Uko talked about what he does when a baby arrives so early, like Olivia did. Emphasizing that everyone at Shore works as a team to support the newborn for the best possible outcome. “This is a very tough job, but I am so happy that I am doing it and getting to see beautiful babies and their families come back to share with us how they are doing. It is wonderful to see Olivia and her family.”

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