‘Miracle Man’ Killian defies odds

This is the season of excitement and expectation for children, especially for Killian Moyers. He not only received his first bicycle for Christmas, but has the ability to ride it.

Killian’s prognosis six years ago was dismal, so for his parents, Lincoln County’s Steven and Brittany Moyers, it was a special blessing to celebrate Killian’s birthday this month, as well as Christmas. He not only defied the odds of survival following his birth, but is now a thriving little boy.

Several years ago, Steven and Brittany tragically lost their first child when their baby was born pre-maturely at 24-weeks old, living only eight days. Two years after the couple’s many struggles, Brittany was expecting another baby. But, when she was only 23 weeks along in her pregnancy, she was hospitalized in an effort to postpone the birth, which wasn’t due to happen for more than three months. 

“We were told the survival rate was less than 25 percent and the rate of extra disability was up in the 90s,” Brittany recalled.

After five days in the hospital, she developed an infection, and physicians decided that if Brittany was to recover, the baby had to be born.

Labor would have to be induced, the doctors told the couple.

“The doctors apologized and said the survival rate had gone to zero,” said Brittany. “They said he probably wouldn’t be born alive.”

A large, very solemn neonatal team, composed of nurses, residents, doctors and respiratory specialists, assembled in the delivery room to comfort to the couple, but they were not anticipating a live birth.

“They induced labor, and his cry was so loud in the delivery room – it was a tiny kitten sound – but my family could hear him in the waiting room.”

He weighed only one pound, eight ounces – about the weight of a bottle of water.

Shock resonated through the delivery room, and the medical team sprang into action. Killian was incubated in NICU at Vanderbilt Hospital with only a 25 percent chance of survival.

Killian was looking poorly at 10 days old. He had developed a perforated bowel and had an infection. He was rushed to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital for surgery, but the surgeon refused to operate, saying that the baby’s internal organs were like tissue paper and another vital organ could be torn during the surgery should she proceed. Before moving forward, the surgeon asked to pray with the family for the baby. Instead of surgery, the surgeon chose to drain the infection.

Little Killian didn’t like the Penrose drain and managed to pull out the stitches and the drain several times, though eventually it healed. When the results came back from his MRI and CT scans, the forecast was discouraging. The tests showed that his brain was damaged on both the left and right sides and that he would have long-term physical disability and mental impairment, requiring a lifetime of 24/7 care. 

“We sat down with the doctor, and he asked whether we wanted to continue life support, based on the brain damage,” said Brittany.

If Killian lived, they were told they wouldn’t know the full extent of the damage until he was five years old.

Amazingly, about a month later, another scan showed that the blood had stopped seeping into the brain, and instead of deteriorating much of the brain, almost none of his brain tissues were damaged.

 “He was clearly a fighter and precocious,” said Brittany.

Since Killian’s preemie body didn’t know how to breathe on its own yet, he still needed to be on a ventilator. Despite various tape and swaddling, he managed to pull out the ventilator tube 10 times. A sign near the baby warned unsuspecting nurses not to un-swaddle “Houdini”.

Ultimately, Killian had scarring damage to his airways.

“They put in a tracheotomy, and he pulled out the stitches under heavy sedation,” she said. “We were in the hospital seven months.”

Steven lost his job because he chose to be present while his son endured many life-threatening surgeries.

“He’s been my rock through all of this,” Brittany said.

Killian was allowed to go home with his family on July 1, 2014. He was on a home ventilator, and because his airways were so tight, Brittany, Steven and Brittany’s mom had to learn how to replace a breathing tube within one minute, plus learn how to operate a feeding tube. Another necessity was learning how to perform chest compressions and CPR.

“We had a lot of really scary moments,” Brittany recalled.

Since their insurance wouldn’t pay for registered nurses, licensed practical nurses were in the house 24/7.

“Infant traches and ventilators were out of their scope … We had a lot of close calls and two Life Flights,” said Brittany.

While the doctors didn’t expect Killian to go off the ventilator until age three, by the time he was 10 months old, “Miracle Man Killian”, as he is called, was off the machine. He had reconstructive surgery at age three.

“Now at six, there’s no sign of lung problems,” said Brittany.

Even though he has a little weakness in his legs, these days Killian walks and runs, climbs, jumps, and will soon be riding his bicycle. He has mild Cerebral Palsy and has had a couple of seizures, but with medication, it is under control.

“He’s high-functioning, creative, energetic and is keeping up in pre-k,” Brittany said enthusiastically.

Brittany attributes Killian’s remarkable survival to some divine intervention and some incredible medical teams who were passionately determined to see him succeed.

Killian’s long-term goal is to become a firefighter, like his hero, Michael Pendergrass of the Fayetteville Fire Department, whom he met a year ago when he had a tour of the fire station.

Life in the Moyers’ home is beginning to feel a lot more normal.

“We’re very grateful to be at the point we are now.” 

Brittany is going to school studying computer science, and Steven has a job at C&S Plastics. 

Killian’s grandparents are Sherry and Gary Moyers and Angela and John Steelman.

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