By Angie H. Crutchley — Nathaniel Metzger has an appetite for life (and food) like most 17-month-old boys. Watching his brown curls bounce as he gains footing, and distance, to get the fruit plate his dad is feeding him, one wouldn’t suspect the tumultuous beginning of his life. Le’Andra and Nathan Metzger, Nathaniel’s parents, are thankful for his accomplishments and milestones because his life started with a whirlwind. He was born Oct. 9, 2017, at just 26 weeks and 6 days. The 2-pound, 1-ounce baby was deemed a miracle by those closest to the family. The Metzgers are this year’s March of Dimes (MOD) Ambassador Family.
“Little Nathaniel is a testament to how far our medical field has come with prematurity and everyone that is involved in the Eastern Shore March for Babies should be proud they are a part of that. Success takes every facet, from research to community programs and education,” said MOD Community Director Susan Turner.
Teachers for Accomack County, they were both in school when Le’Andra’s water broke at 24 weeks. She sent Nathan a message and said, “I’m scared and I think you need to come.” Nathan tried to remain calm for his wife, and did so until they told him that she would be flown to a hospital across the bay. The scenario was made more tragic because the Metzgers 10-month-old godchild died earlier that year from congenital myopathy.
Le’Andra was at the hospital for two hours when the situation’s gravity struck her.
“I broke down. ‘It’s gonna be all right, mama,’ said the nurse. ‘It’s gonna be all right.’”
They gave her surfactant, a drug promoted by MOD that helps with lung development, hoping to keep her from labor until 34 weeks. She was successfully delayed for two more weeks thanks to prolonged medical care and advanced medicines.
“Both schools raised money and brought us gifts and things to occupy our time while we were at the Ronald McDonald House,” said Le’Andra. “We are very thankful for the support … and prayers during our journey.”
Nathan’s parents were first able to hold him at nine days old. After that, he made amazing strides, and after 82 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters, the little boy got to come home on Dec. 30, 2017. He weighed 6 pounds and 3 ounces. The Metzgers are now on the family advisory committee for the NICU.
There are 14 MOD teams so far this year and 20 corporate sponsors.
Last year the Eastern Shore raised almost $45,000. This year’s goal is $50,000 and already $12,000 has come in, according to Turner.
But the real goal, said Turner, is “reaching a goal of healthier moms and stronger babies.”
These days, Nathan is healthy and happy. He loves mandarin oranges, peanut butter and jelly, and grilled cheese sandwiches. A big fan of “Sesame Street” with a strong admiration for Elmo, the little red Muppet, he can also be found any given evening playing with the family dog, Juno.
“Juno loves him and he loves Juno,” said Nathan.
There may also be a future in music for the little fellow, who loves the drums.
“My dad is a pastor and last Sunday we sat him up with his own drums,” said Le’Andra. “He is very musically inclined.”
And he is a little flirt. His first words were spoken at daycare: “Hey babe,” which is also how his mom answers the phone when his dad calls.
Anybody wanting to start a team or with questions can email Turner at [email protected]