Family finds ways to give back after child born 16 weeks early

by Dave Boehler
for The Beacon

DAN AND ABBY MILLER WITH HARPER (center) who was born 16 weeks early and is now four, and Caden, one. — Photo by Lilyrian Photography

Since their daughter was born 16 weeks early and weighed 1 pound 13 ounces, the Millers show their appreciation to all those involved on a yearly basis.

This year, Dan and Abby Miller are hosting a brat fry from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 17 at the Piggly Wiggly in Plymouth. All the proceeds will be donated to Children’s Wisconsin hospital.

“It’s rewarding to give back,” Dan said. “(Everyone) gave us so much, we just want to give back.”

Four years ago, the Plymouth residents were in the Wisconsin Dells. Abby remembers it being a hot day, and her cramps ignored the weather report.

Her pain increased in the evening, so the family left the Tommy Bartlett Water Show and headed to Baraboo’s  hospital.

At first, doctors thought Abby was dehydrated.

But then her water broke.

“I was basically in shock,” she said.

About three hours later, Harper was born.

The parents were told she looked strong, but …

“I think they were trying to reassure us at that point,” Abby said. “But in the back of my head, I was like, ‘I don’t know … ‘

“Because 24 weeks is pretty early. Back maybe a few years she probably wouldn’t have made it but technology has pretty much advanced a lot.”

Harper was so tiny, her father’s wedding band fit around her arm.

She eventually was transported to a Madison hospital and later spent two more months at Children’s.

Mom remembers times when Harper was taken off her ventilator, she would have spurts when her breathing stopped and doctors had to come in to pump her with air.

“That was pretty scary,” Abby said.

A healthy Harper turned 4 on May 27, however, even though doctors never figured out why she was born so early.

“They don’t actually know why it happened, it might have just been a fluke,” Abby said. “I would say she is a miracle. I mean, it was rough. She was (in a hospital) for like 113 days. I feel like, I don’t know, it made us stronger as a couple because we had to work through all of it together. Plus moving into a new house, because we moved in literally right before she came home, it did help a lot that when he wasn’t there with me, family would call and text me. Otherwise, I don’t know, it would have been a lot harder if there wasn’t that support.”

So the Millers want to give back.

They started by donating gift bags to families in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Abby and Dan served meals at the Ronald McDonald House the following year.

That stopped when the pandemic arrived, so instead they donated books to the House last year.

Now, it’s time to try a brat fry. There will also be burgers, chips, soda and the likes.

The Millers, who also have a 1-year-old son, Caden (he did not have any issues when he was born), enjoy giving their time and offer donations because of all they endured.

“We have tried to give back every year, only because without all the nurses, the Ronald McDonald House, the NICU people, she probably wouldn’t be here,” Abby said. 

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