Graham Winslow almost never took his first breath on his own.
His life was a coin flip. At 18 weeks of her pregnancy, Dayle Winslow, Graham’s mother, and his father, Zade, went in for an ultrasound.
The family found out Graham was a boy, but they also found out Graham was not a normal baby boy.
Dayle said she remembers thinking about how the doctor mentioned every important organ except the brain and said she realized this was a big deal.
On Nov. 25, 2014, Graham was born via cesarean section and was immediately intubated. Because of his condition, Graham was unable to breathe on his own.
Then two days later on Thanksgiving Day, three specialists came out to the waiting room, where Graham’s family had been waiting for days to see if he’d make it.
The specialists told Graham’s family he was stable enough to be placed in an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine, or ECMO, and would soon undergo lifesaving surgery to fix the defect he was born with.
Diane Elder, Graham’s grandmother, said it was nothing short of a miracle.
Graham was operated on when he was a week old.
Dr. Bob Letton at OU Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City walked out of the operating room after performing Graham’s lifesaving surgery for hours. Dayle and her father said they still remember and talk about how exhausted Letton looked as he came out of the surgery. Letton and Dr. Phillip Mantor were the main doctors who helped with Graham’s treatment, and Dayle said she will be forever grateful to the two men who saved her son’s life.
Graham received treatment for 109 days at OU Children’s before he was released. He was fed via feeding tube for the first nine months of his life.
Today, Graham runs, laughs, climbs and cracks jokes.
Seeing Graham’s journey, from not being able to breathe on his own to now, has been special, Zade Winslow said.
One of Graham’s favorite things to do is ride in Zade Winslow’s golf cart and go over large hills. Zade said he is always surprised how fearless Graham is and how much he loves thrill-seeking.
Along with riding on a four-wheeler as his grandfather and father go duck hunting, Graham loves completing puzzles, jumping on inflatable bounce houses and watching TV.
Graham quotes “Toy Story,” and his favorite song right now is Montell Jordan’s “This is How We Do It.”
“It’s been awesome watching him grow,” Zade Winslow said. “From where he started to where he is now, it’s been miraculous. It’s truly a blessing seeing him take on life.”
For Graham and his family, this year’s CowboyThon was the second year they were honored and celebrated as a miracle family.
Graham’s older sister, Finley, was 3 when Graham was born. Finley and Graham are the closest of friends, Dayle said.
Dayle is pregnant with her third child and said she’s excited to see Graham take on the role of big brother once the baby is born.
Graham lives with a Gore-Tex patch that acts as his diaphragm.
Graham’s future is unknown, and as his organs continue to grow, there could be more obstacles in his journey. As for now, he smiles and plays like a normal kid, thanks to several lifesaving surgeries and miracles along the way.
Zade said he and his family continue to cherish every day.
“You don’t know,” he said. “Tomorrow is never guaranteed. That’s why we put that much more emphasis on cherishing those moments that come about.”