When baby Axel Winch was born at 29 weeks, he had “all sorts of issues genetically, physically to the point where the news was pretty devastating,” his father, Adam Winch, told WTHR.
More than three months after his birth, doctors are still getting a handle on all the medical issues the baby boy may face throughout his lifetime.
“He’s completely a mystery baby to this Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU),” Adam Winch told 9 News. “It is world-class, still trying to figure it all out. There’s a lot of different theories, but they’re not sure exactly what it is yet.”
Despite undergoing numerous surgeries and procedures, Axel proved to be resilient and continues to show everyone around him that miracles are possible.
“Axel has died in our arms multiple times,” Adam Winch told 9News. “His nurses have saved his life. We have watched miracle after miracle.”
Adam Winch is a former police officer who is now a business owner. Melissa Winch, Axel’s mom, is a police officer in Grand Junction, Colorado. When the couple had to return to work, they couldn’t face the prospect of leaving the baby.
“Leaving is heartbreaking,” Melissa Winch told 9 News. “The first time we left, I cried not all the way home, but majority of the way home. It’s terrible.”
But baby Axel had a bigger family than anyone knew.
“I didn’t want him to be alone,” Sgt. Mike Pitrusu from the Aurora Police Department’s Employee Support and Wellness unit told 9News. “[I] came up with the idea that we would set up basically a watch, that we would have officers sign up for times to come in here and spend time with Axel.”
After Pitrusu came up with the idea, around 20 officers spent time with Axel.
“Somebody called it the cuddle watch,” Pitrusu said. “I don’t know where that came from. I think we probably would’ve come with something tougher. We’ll go with cuddle watch.”
The Aurora Police Department started helping the Winch family in August when someone learned that a fellow police officer was going through a tough time with a child at the hospital. Since then, the officers have raised money to help the couple. One fellow officer even let the parents stay in her home.
“I think it was a win-win for both Axel and the officers that came in here,” Adam Winch told 9News.
“When you look down inside the heart and soul of a police officer, they’re there because of love,” he added. “They showed the very best side of that here, every day.”
Little Axel got so much love from the Aurora PD officers that now his parents have a bit of a problem.
“They’ve kind of spoiled our boy now,” Melissa Winch told WTHR. “He just wants to be held all the time now.”
“We don’t know what the future holds yet, but right now he’s happy and healthy for us,” the couple told 9News.
Adam Winch has been posting regular updates about Axel on Facebook. One post on Nov. 12 shows the couple leaving the hospital with Axel in a car seat. A photo in that post shows them with Axel outdoors.
But with the baby going home, the warm-hearted officers who formed a bond with him now feel like they need another baby to cuddle.
“We almost need to set up a cuddle watch for Children’s Hospital, just give the opportunity to come in and take care of the little ones,” Pitrusu told 9News.
Axel has been at home for more than two weeks and spent Thanksgiving with his family. Below is his father’s latest update on Nov. 23 on the boy’s life:
Axel has been out of the hospital and home for a little less than two weeks on this Thanksgiving Day. And it’s been a ride.
He is on a feeding schedule every three hours using a pump and hoses that go through his G-tube and straight into his stomach. These feeds take breast milk mixed with fortifier, along with some daily medicines. Once the feeding is done, Axel has to be “burped” or “vented” using a hosed escape valve to allow the air and stomach gases to vent out through the G-tube. This allows some food and trapped air bubbles in his stomach to come back out until only milk is left to slowly drain back in. The entire process takes about an hour from beginning to end, and then he usually needs burped once or twice more between the next feeding within an hour or two.
As Melissa said while shaking her head the other day, the process seems to never end.
Typical baby, the little warrior manages to tear up diapers on a regular basis. Yesterday morning, he went through five – yeah, five – in about an hour or so. And several of those were runny and odoriferously impressive. Melissa’s shopper ingenuity at finding diapers less expensive online is quickly becoming a necessity. Stock tip – maybe buy shares in Pampers; Axel alone will not let them go out of business and has probably increased their profit share during this last quarter.
And unlike the intelligent Melissa, Axel’s other parent is still learning to not stand in the line of fire when venting his stomach or when changing his diaper. Getting nailed with urine, the other stuff, or somewhat digested stomach contents….well, it should be a self-correcting problem the first time…but Axel is a devious marksman with an uncanny ability to find that half-second of a parent’s lackadaisical moments.
We’d moved during Axel’s hospital stays, with a huge amount of help from friends and incredible GJPD friends. Everything was put in the new house, basically turning it into a glorified storage shed before we locked the door and left for Aurora again.
Now back in this new house, we’ve been slowly – ever so slowly – unpacking and trying to turn this house into a home – somewhat dependent on work schedules and highly dependent on Axel’s tolerance for attention to be elsewhere.
I’ve been blessed to get back to work, restarting my company’s schedule, and Melissa has been to work a few times.
She’d run out of vacation hours (PTO) that could be used for the care that’s necessary for her to be at home with Axel. We’d begun to wonder what to do; if anyone has to be at home with Axel, it’s Melissa, but with no time off from work left, we were at a quandary.
The Grand Junction Police Department stepped up to the plate once again, fulfilling a huge need. A multitude of GJPD Officers donated their own paid time off hours so Melissa could finally be an at-home mom for twelve (12!) weeks with Axel. Another answer to prayer, love once again on display by the LEO community.
The wonderful people of GJPD, GJFD, Clifton Fire, and a Mesa County Sheriff’s Deputy, in association with the good folks at the Glacier Ice Rink in GJ, put on a Broomball fund raiser to help with Axel’s already-huge and growing medical bills. We even got to stop by and watch a little of the ending as the GJPD team stomped the living day light out of the Fire Department team. Axel was carefully introduced around, his first small trip into the “outside world”.
A note of Axel’s health and current condition:
He’s healthy and usually a happy baby. We change his G-tube dressings daily, rotating the out-spout with the same regularity, and are constantly cleaning the related supplies dealing with his flowing stomach contents. He needs a little more attention than a normal baby, and it’s a joy to get to do so, especially after finally being out of the hospital.
He smiles often, by far more at his mom than anyone else, and engages in the usual baby stuff of sleeping, diaper destruction, and “eating”. He actually can breast or bottle feed some, and it’s a joy to hear and watch Melissa laugh to the point of almost tears as he plays at eating more than actual eating. He has a growing character we watch with curiosity to see who this little man is, and it’s interesting that he’s just as curious as we are.
He likes to test out his voice, obviously listening to himself while constantly talking and making noises, occasionally suddenly yelling as he tries to find his own volumes.
He stretches and wiggles constantly, smiles and stares at his mom with trusting love and adoration and me with curiosity, or occasionally with alarm when he gets daddy-mugged.
We have been duly warned over and over by medical folks to extremely limit any and all human contact with Axel and to rarely take him places. We were warned to rarely or not take him to the store or church, definitely never to any school, and not to family gatherings or any other gathering. Basically, they told us with a seriousness so many times to not allow even the sweetest grandma or our best friends touch him.
After so many setbacks and medical terror, his lungs and system are suspect; we have no real clue how strong his immunities are and the slightest things would most likely put him back in danger and the hospital.
One – we love him and will protect him from physical contact from even the best-intended, loving people who want to meet this little miracle child. His body is still too fragile, especially during this season of prevalent germs.
Two – we can’t afford another hospital stay. We just received one of many medical bills yesterday. It is for $709,000. Thankfully, insurance is covering the first $359,000. And we have STACKS of other Axel medical bills just like it, all ridiculously high sums….except for that one for $39. Therefore, no more hospital stays, if we can help it.
So, when, if, we get to introduce Axel, we ask you not be offended if we keep him from any actual contact, possibly even out of breathing range. It is only for Axel’s safety; he cannot stand to deal with even small germs passed on due to second, third, or fourth person contact someone may not even realize they’d had that could be dangerous for Axel.
We have so much to be thankful for. Axel is home (!), a thing we honestly didn’t believe would happen before Christmas, and occasionally feared may never happen.
Axel is alive, happy, and growing fatter everyday, with all the signs of less complications through his life than initially suspected. Melissa is a loving mom, ever conscious of not spoiling Axel, viciously protective of him, and heartwarming to see her smile light up in that way only a mother can.
We’ve been uplifted by unexpected help and kindness from friends and strangers more than we can express. Fund-raisers and donations have helped so much; we honestly don’t know what we would have done without such help.
The doctors and nurses we’ve encountered during Axel’s fight for life have impacted us with their skill and love, many becoming friends we hold dear.
St. Mary’s nurses Courtney, Jen, Jill, and others whose husbands are LEO’s or FD personnel…Children’s Hospital nurses who were Axel’s primary nurses…Jessica, Tayler, Taylor, Chelsey, Chelsea, Sarah… We fell in love with each of you in GJ and Aurora, stood often in awe of your skill and gentle love towards Axel, and cannot thank you enough.
To you ladies in Aurora, our offer is sincere, our home is always open to you and yours and you are always wanted and welcome. Axel would love to see you again as much as we.
Aurora PD….you all touched our lives throughout Axel’s struggle in ways that are impossible to thank you enough for. Sgt. Pitrusu, Detective LM, Chief Metz, DC Flynn, and so many others….we stand in awe of who you are and what you’ve done for Axel…and us throughout this challenging time, starting when we were complete strangers to you at first…we thank you with all our hearts.
On this Thanksgiving, we give thanks to God Almighty for Axel’s life and for the impossible miracle after miracle we witnessed almost daily. Our faith in God was bolstered in ways I could never imagined…and living worthy of such love is a challenge once again accepted. For when we, or I, do fail, I’m so grateful for Christ’s salvation granted through His sacrifice on the cross that allows a believer to still stand fast before this merciful God.
Being home, all three of us together, enjoying Thanksgiving with Melissa’s truly wonderful parents, playing with the dogs, eating delicious, non-hospital food, rejoicing in family and seeing Axel sleep-smile through this day….when this was completely unexpected…is heart-swelling to people who thought they’d still be in the hospital.
Axel is alive and well, an honest miracle child gifted to us all for purposes still to be seen. God is still the giver of miracles and King, no matter how bad the world may seem, with a promise for all willing to see and come to know Him. There are highly skilled people who work day and night to keep those such as Axel alive. We have so much to be grateful for.
On this day, we give thanks to God for all He has brought Axel through so far. In particular, I also give thanks for the strength I’ve watched in Melissa as she dealt with the fear, stresses, hardships, and challenges of the last five months. That woman’s fortitude, spirit, and love is exemplary. And we thank you; you’ve made the almost-unbearable bearable, bringing help and peace where it was unexpected and needed.