Crystal Russell

Crystal Russell stands at the entrance to her son Wyatt Lynn Russell's room at CHI St. Alexius Medical Center on Monday. Russell's son was born prematurely at 21 weeks, weighing one pound, five ounces.

Wyatt Lynn Russell was born 16 weeks early and nearly 21 hours away from home.

A Texas woman gave birth to Wyatt, who weighed 1 pound 5 ounces, at CHI St. Alexius Medical Center a day after Christmas. Crystal Russell, of Arlington, Texas, was visiting her husband’s family when she began severely hemorrhaging and was flown to the Bismarck hospital. She later gave birth via emergency C-section and has since received an outpouring of community support for her son, who is still fighting for his life.

Crystal and Christopher Russell, along with Crystal’s three sons, Trey Felts, 16, Joey Felts, 14, and Dawson Felts, 13, arrived in Williston early Dec. 23. Crystal Russell said it was her family’s first time in North Dakota, and they had planned to take a road trip to Mount Rushmore.

About an hour after they arrived, Russell said she went to bed, but shortly after was awakened by her husband when he found her lying in a puddle of blood.

“I was scared,” she said, and confused because she wasn’t having any labor pains.

The two rushed to a small hospital in Williston. Russell said she was losing a lot of blood and the doctors were unsure whether she was in labor. Bismarck Air Medical flew to Williston to get Russell and brought her to Bismarck, where she was taken by ambulance to St. Alexius.

Once she arrived, she said doctors discovered she wasn’t in labor, but she was bleeding profusely because 50 percent of placenta pulled away from her uterus. The doctors said she would have to stay in the hospital until her due date, which was April 15.

“That was the first time I ever saw my husband cry. He lost it because he realized he had to leave his wife here,” Russell said, wiping away tears.

A few days later, Russell hemorrhaged again. This time, she was in labor. She said the doctors gave Wyatt a 50/50 chance of living through the birth. He was given steroids to develop his lungs and medication for brain development, she said, but the medication hadn't kicked in. 

Little Wyatt was born Dec. 26, 2015, at 10:46 a.m. His eyes were fused shut but he was crying, which was a good sign.

Russell said her family in the South have nicknamed him "the Yankee,” though some would like to call him “Dakota.” His name Wyatt, which means "fighter," is fitting, Russell said. He’s on antibiotics, has had two blood transfusions, a brain bleed and a hole on his heart, which closed up on Sunday.

Russell and her husband still haven’t held their son due to his thin skin and for other safety reasons, she said.

“The first time I hear him cry, I think I’m going to let him cry for a little bit because that’s the first time I’ve heard him do anything,” she said.

Russell said her family returned to Texas on New Year’s Day. Her teenage sons are all in wrestling, and some are football players. Her husband also has a job in Texas, which he can’t leave.

“It’s hard at night for me,” she said. “I’m up in North Dakota, and I have no family, no friends … (But) everyone here has been so nice and so helpful.”

Russell is staying at the Ronald McDonald house for a few months or shorter, depending on Wyatt’s condition. Though Russell said one of her sons has insisted Wyatt return quickly so he doesn’t start to “talk like (North Dakotans).”

Russell’s mother-in-law has set up a GoFundMe account for the family’s hospital bills, money for travel and other expenses, which as of Monday afternoon has collected $925 of $5,000. Wyatt also has a Facebook page.

To donate to the Ronald McDonald house, visit https://donate.rmhc.org/.

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(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)