The neonatologists at Connecticut Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) are used to seeing very tiny and fragile babies, but few are as tiny or fragile as Brady was. His mother has a genetic disease that damages her kidneys and can also interfere with pregnancy. Because of that disease, Brady was born very early, at 25 weeks. But even for a 25-week-old baby, he was tiny: a mere one pound, four ounces.

At this early stage of development, most of a baby’s organs are not fully formed, yet they need to start functioning. The lungs are particularly challenged, and that was certainly the case with Brady. He had all kinds of machines hooked up to him to help him breathe, but even with those it was touch and go. “At one point,” says his father, Adam, “we actually had a priest come and bless Brady, because they weren’t sure he was going to make it that day. We were told, ‘He’s doing everything he can, and we’re doing everything we can, but sometimes the fight is too hard.’ So, we had him baptized. But within a couple of hours and over the course of the next day, he started to recover.”

“We were constantly trying to get through that day, that minute, that second,” Adam continues. “When you walk in to the NICU, there are the butterflies in your stomach before you go around the corner to talk to your nurse, and you’re thinking, ‘Please let it be a good day. Let us start out good and get good news overnight.’

Altogether, Brady was in the NICU for 135 days, and for most of that time, his parents were on tenterhooks. “It’s a humbling experience beyond anything,” Adam says. “I retired from the military after 20 years in 2020. I’ve been in wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and all over, and the four months we spent in the NICU was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with. I would take going into Iraq and Afghanistan a hundred times over rather than deal with those four months.”

Happily, Brady—and his parents—made it through his time in the NICU, and the following months at home, when he still had to be on a ventilator and a feeding tube. Today, Brady is a happy, thriving two-year-old, quickly catching up to other kids his age. “He’s doing great now,” Adam says. “You couldn’t even tell that he’s a preemie kid. He’s the happiest kid I’ve ever met.”