O'Fallon Progress

Nolan has away of connecting with people; people just love her

Nolan Metcalfe gives Whiteside Elmentary School Assistant Principal Kevin Johnson a high five Tuesday.
Nolan Metcalfe gives Whiteside Elmentary School Assistant Principal Kevin Johnson a high five Tuesday. mhodapp@bnd.com

It didn’t look too promising at the beginning.

After Jillian Milon gave birth to Nolan Metcalfe, 15 weeks premature in 2011, her doctors once gave her daughter a 50 percent chance of survival.

But Milon, along with her boyfriend, Nathaniel Metcalfe, never gave up hope for Nolan, who weighed only one pound and eight ounces at birth.

On Aug. 22, Nolan, now 5, started kindergarten at Whiteside Elementary School in Belleville.

Nolan, who lives in Shiloh, was a little nervous, Milon said.

“She even told me she had butterflies in her stomach,” Milon said.

But Milon tried to reassure her daughter, saying it was normal a feeling.

It was a big day for Milon and Metcalfe, who would thought this would day never happen for their daughter.

“When it did happen, it was very exciting,” she said.

But when she got into her classroom, Nolan was ready for her school day to begin.

It was almost as if she didn’t need her mom and dad. That was kind of shocking to Milon.

“She has been so dependent on us so long,” she said. “It was like, okay, I’m fine to be here by myself.”

She has been so dependent on us so long. It was like, okay, I’m fine to be here by myself.

Jillian Milon, Nolan’s mother

Aspiring dancer

Nolan is now a bundle of energy. She loves to take ballet and tap dancing lessons and tumbling classes.

“That’s her thing,” Milon said. “She loves to perform. She dances all day. She loves to express herself through dance.”

When Milon signed Nolan up for dance at first, she thought it might be kind of hard for her daughter.

But it was freedom for Nolan.

“Dancing is so natural for her,” Milon said.

Nolan said she also likes to play with her Barbie dolls.

“And I also like to play with blocks,” she said.

But Nolan said she loves to dance.

She loves to perform. She dances all day. She loves to express herself through dance.

Jillian Milon, Nolan’s mother

“I like to dance to dancing music,” she said.

Her favorite song is “Just Dance.”

As far as her future is concerned the kindergartener said, “I just want to play when I get older.”

Born 15 weeks early

Nolan was born on Feb. 8, 2011. Her original due date was May 24, 2011.

Milon said she still doesn’t know why she went into a premature labor.

But, she recalled she started to experience labor pains while at work.

“I called my doctor, who advised me to rest because I had a doctor’s appointment later in the day,” she said.

By the time she saw her doctor, Jillian was experiencing contractions.

Her doctor immediately sent Milon to Memorial Hospital in Belleville, where she stayed there only a short time.

She was rushed to St. Mary’s Hospital in Clayton, Mo., where she gave birth to her first and only child a short time later.

After Nolan was born, she was immediately flown to SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Hospital in St. Louis.

I was very scared,” Milon said. “I didn’t know what to expect.

Jillian Milon, Nolan’s mother

“I was very scared,” Milon said. “I didn’t know what to expect.”

Metcalfe, was scared. too.

“We didn’t even know how to react,” she said.

But that is all in the past, and they are at a comfortable place in their lives now.

Over the years, Milon and Metcalfe received a lot of support from their family and friends. They also received tremendous support from Nolan’s nurses and doctors while she was in the hospital for almost the first three years of her life.

“Prayers also helped me a lot,” Milon said.

“And it forced me to grow up very quickly,” added Milon, who was 25-years-old when Nolan was born.

“I had become kind of selfless. It was just me at first. I didn’t have to worry about anyone else at first,” she said.

Going home

Nolan stayed at Cardinal Glennon for nine months of her life before she was allowed to go home on Nov. 28, 2011 .

Within that time, Milon couldn’t be with her for awhile as she had to recover and heal.

During the whole process, everything that could go wrong, did.

Jillian Milon, Nolan’s mother

“During the whole process, everything that could go wrong, did,” Milon said.

Nolan had health conditions she had to deal with.

She had bleeding on her brain, which fixed itself.

She also experienced an irregular heartbeat, which also fixed itself.

In premature babies, if the duct remains open after birth, the blood tends to flow from the aorta to the pulmonary artery.

Nolan was also trach dependent for the first 2   years of her life, which means she had a a tracheotomy tube, more commonly known as a ventilator, to assist with breathing. A tracheotomy tube provides direct access to the trachea by surgically making an opening in the neck ventilator dependent requires 24/7 vigilance and involves a level of skill and knowledge that exceeds the typical parent’s experience, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

“That was the hardest part,” Milon said. “I was not familiar with anyone being trach dependent.”

After Nolan got home, she was provided home health care for about three years, where she had to undergo physical and occupational therapy.

“They used to come weekly and work with her,” Milon said.

But only a couple weeks after she was allowed to go home from the hospital, Nolan’s trach tube became clogged.

Milon applied Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), which she was earlier taught CPR training while Nolan was still in the hospital, and was able to get Nolan to breath on her own.

But for a while, Jillian feared the worst news.

“That was the scariest thing I ever had to deal with,” she said.

Tough decisions

Nolan’s doctors wanted to remove her trach tube naturally by just taking it out. That, however, didn’t work.

“Every time we tried, she couldn’t breath without it,” Milon said.

When Nolan was about 2   years old, her doctor’s were able to safely remove the trach tube and reconstruct Nolan’s airway on Dec. 1, 2014.

Nolan would spend a week at Cardinal Glennon Hospital after the surgery was performed, where she remained comatose for four days.

While Nolan had a trach tube, she couldn’t speak. The only way Nolan and Milon communicated with each other was through sign language.

“At the beginning, I thought that would be the hardest thing for me,” Milon said. “But it just became natural. So this life that we built was normal for me, but from the outside was abnormal to others. So when she became a normal child, it was abnormal to me.”

Nolan is fully healed

Nolan has made a 360-degree recovery, and is completely healed today. She now weighs about 32 pounds. She, however, is so active, it’s hard to keep any weight on her, Milon said.

She has a way of connecting with people. People just love her. I’ve always prayed when she had this freedom as a child, it would be unimaginable. She is a very outgoing child, and very articulate.

Jillian Milon, Nolan’s mother

“Her personality is very bright,” she said “She has a way of connecting with people. People just love her. I’ve always prayed when she had this freedom as a child, it would be unimaginable. She is a very outgoing child, and very articulate.”

Milon said her daughter can now hold a conversation with anybody. She remembers breaking down after Nolan said “mommy” for the first time after she signed it her so many times before.

“That was a moment for me,” she said.

Mark Hodapp: 618-239-2688.

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