By CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4)– A baby girl, born with a rare, life-threatening birth defect, is starting 2021 out of the hospital and with her parents. She survived major surgery to correct her anatomy just days after birth at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.

Her doctor and her parents call Esreaha Reene Jacqueline Koch “a fighter.”

(credit: CBS)

CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh first saw Esreaha snoozing in her car seat that had been placed inside her hospital crib. The baby girl was getting comfortable in the seat, so she could safely leave the hospital.

It was a relief, after 5 months of fear that Esreaha might not survive.

“I didn’t want to lose her, she meant everything to me,” cried Tonya Koch, her mother.

Back in July, just 21 weeks pregnant, Tonya went into preterm labor.

And tests showed her baby had a congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), a birth abnormality in which the diaphragm does not form properly. Esreaha’s had a large hole on the left side.

(credit: Tonya Koch)

“All of her abdominal organs were up in the chest. Her heart was moved over into her armpit. Her stomach was where her heart is,” explained Bentley Koch, Esreaha’s father.

“Everything was in her chest not allowing her lungs to grow,” added Tonya.

So, Tonya and Bentley left Nebraska for Denver and the care of specialists at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.

“I prayed any chance I got,” said Tonya.

Esreaha was born on October 31, 6 weeks early.

“Esreaha was quite ill when she was born,” said Dr. Saundra Kay, Pediatric General Surgeon.

Over the next 11 days, the baby held on with the help of medications and ventilators while her lungs developed.

“She surprised and shocked all of us and it was a miracle,” said Tonya.

(credit: CBS)

Dr. Kay then did surgery, moving Esreaha’s displaced organs back and patching her diaphragm.

“I think that she’s come a long way and I think that she’s a fighter,” said Kay.

The fight isn’t over. Esreaha left the hospital with a feeding tube and oxygen. Complications can include gastrointestinal esophageal reflux disease (GERD), developmental delays, chronic lung disease, hearing loss, asthma and/or failure to thrive. She will need the ongoing care of doctors and her parents.

Tonya tries not to be worried, “I try to say positive and I just continue to pray and I just look at her and I say ‘No, she’s feisty she’s got this.'”

LINK: Koch Family GoFundMe

Kathy Walsh