Tiny, but fierce.
That is how Melanie Hollins describes her 16-month-old daughter Emily Rose, who has already demonstrated profound strength in her short lifetime.
Emily Rose was born at 25 weeks and six days - nearly four months premature - on Feb. 8, 2017.
Weighing a mere 12.7 ounces at birth, Emily Rose spent 156 days in the INTEGRIS Children's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) before leaving INTEGRIS as the hospital's smallest surviving baby ever.
Thanks to the care she received at INTEGRIS, Emily Rose is thriving today. Her weight was approaching 15 pounds in April and Emily was on the verge of talking and walking.
"Even though she is tiny, she has a Napoleon complex," Melanie said. "She thinks she can do anything. There is nothing she doesn't think she can do. That's why I call her tiny, but fierce."
About two years ago, Melanie didn't believe she would be able to have children.
The now-43-year-old Bethany resident had been diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure and end-stage kidney failure - all hereditary traits in her family tree.
Melanie's kidneys were functioning at just 13 percent and she was going through the approval process to be placed on the kidney transplant list when she and her husband Alex found out she was pregnant.
"We were both excited and horrified at the same time," she said. "Here I was dealing with my own major medical problems and asking myself 'am I even going to be physically capable of carrying this child?'"
Melanie said everything progressed fine with her pregnancy until about six months in when during a scheduled check-up her doctor said Emily Rose was very small and not growing like she needed to be. Melanie's kidney function also dropped to 11 percent.
Then one night in early February, Melanie experienced strong stomach pains and went to the emergency room.
"They told me, she's coming today," Melanie recalled. "That freaked me out."
At 6:22 p.m., Emily Rose was delivered by Cesarean section and entered the world weighing barely more than a can of soda and less than one pound.
"We stayed in the NICU for 156 days and she fought," Melanie said.
Being born so early, Emily Rose's body was extremely underdeveloped.
She was not able to breathe on her own. She couldn't physically take a bottle until she was three months old. Nurses fed her through a tube to keep her alive.
"The whole time while we were in the NICU I would tell her: 'You are strong. You are whole. You are healthy'…just give her words of affirmation so she would grow and she would always hear my voice. I would sing to her," Melanie said.
When summer arrived, Emily Rose weighed a healthy 7 pounds, 15 ounces.
"At the end of that 156 days, about five months, she was released," Melanie said. "No oxygen. No medication. She was healthy."
Melanie is so thankful to the medical staff at INTEGRIS for their faith, tenacity and willingness to help her daughter against the odds.
"They gave her a chance, and them giving her a chance made all the difference in the world," Melanie said.
Melanie works today to balance maintenance of her own health with caring for Emily Rose and the rest of her family, including 10-year-old daughter Jacari.
Melanie is on dialysis and continues to wait on the kidney transplant list.
She said Emily Rose constantly gives her strength thanks to her daughter's vivacity.
"She's a little firecracker," Melanie said. "Full of energy."