If all goes well, a miracle baby may come home by Christmas, but her single mother needs help paying the staggering medical bills the two of them amassed.
Jasmine Estess weighed just two pounds when she was born Nov. 3 -- nine weeks premature. Her mother, Jennifer, is staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Phoenix so she can be close to her baby, who remains in the intensive care unit at Good Samaritan Hospital.
While Jasmine is now up to three pounds and doing well, it's been a difficult month for baby and mother.
"She went into labor and her blood pressure shot up and they had to fly her down to Good Samaritan and take the baby," Amy von Somogyi, Jennifer's close friend, said.
Pine resident Jim Estess said his new granddaughter has shown an amazing will to live.
"She's a scrapper, this kid," Estess said. "She's hanging in there. She had a few setbacks -- digestive problems, a minor infection, she couldn't tolerate mother's milk at first, things that are all pretty common for preemies.
But she's gotten past all that and is making good progress and hopefully she'll be able to come home by Christmas."
Estess gets daily progress reports from his daughter.
"Jennifer calls me every day and gives me a new report -- that she's had a good night, not had a good night," he said. "They weigh her every day and she's gaining steadily. She's eating mother's milk, and she's at almost an ounce per feeding."
But when you start where Jasmine did, there's still a long way to go. In pictures Estess has of the two, Jennifer dwarfs her baby.
"It looks like she's holding a stuffed toy," he said. "We've got pictures with a Beanie Baby, and the child is smaller."
Jennifer is a customer service representative at Compass Bank. Although she has health insurance, most of her medical bills will not be covered.
"Even with the piddly insurance she has, she's still going to owe her soul to the devil by the time they're done," von Somogyi said.
"You know how expensive medical bills are."
In case you don't, Estess can tell you.
"It costs $3,000 a day to feed this child," he said. "She has a vitamin shot in the IV and it's 500 bucks a shot, and then two bags of infant formula at 1200 bucks a bag."
Once she gets home, it will be a while before Jennifer can return to work.
"This isn't a normal baby," von Somogyi said. "You can't drop it off at the sitter; it's a very high-risk situation."
Von Somogyi, a leukemia victim who received help with her medical bills from the community, is leading a drive to aid Jennifer.
"She has a crib and a car seat, but little else," von Somogyi said. "The shower was supposed to be this weekend. They need money for medical bills. The baby is going to need special preemie clothes. She is going to need preemie this and preemie that."
Von Somogyi has started a bank account for Jennifer and Jasmine. Contributions can be made directly into a Stockmen's Bank account, 7270004430.
For more information, call von Somogyi at (928) 472-6268.