Conradts’ son proves a human wonder

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 14, 2001

There is a new icon to place along side the word "miracle.

Saturday, April 14, 2001

There is a new icon to place along side the word "miracle."

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That would be Steven Daniel Conradt’s picture.

He is the "miracle baby,’ as an adoring public has described him in Austin. The first-born child of Dan and Carla (Johnson) Conradt was born 2:25 p.m. Feb. 2, or 10 weeks before his due date.

It was premature, to be sure. A human wonder, marvel and phenomenon, they say. Deus ex machina at work, they believe.

A co-worker at KAAL told the mother after the birth that she hadn’t given birth to just any baby. It was a "preemie" and that premature babies are "just little babies longer."

The mother, Carla Johnson, a native of Burnsville, is the daughter of a retired Northwest Airlines engineer and his wife, a homemaker. She has one adopted sister.

After graduating with a triple major from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, she went to work as news director for KBRK/KGKG radio at Brookings, S.D. She next spent a year in Spain teaching English, which was one of her three college majors, before returning to Minnesota and joining the news staff of ABC affiliate KAAL Region Six.

The father, Dan Conradt, is a native of Rose Creek, where his parents operated a family meat locker business.

After graduating from Southland High School, he studied mass communications under the tutelage of John O’Rourke at then-Austin Community College, where he earned an associate’s degree.

He signed on the radio for KAUS-AM/FM on April 25, 1978, as a news reporter. Two years later, he was promoted to news director, the position he holds today.

The couple met on the police beat during the daily gathering of media at the Austin-Mower County Law Enforcement Center. A friendship became a romance and on May 6, 1995, they were married.

Their work, traveling and community activities dominated the earliest years of their marriage.

When they learned Carla was pregnant, they digested the news and then told family and friends.

Not only was their lives about to change, but in a big way.

"It was such a difficult pregnancy from the start," Carla said. "Doctors told us I was in danger of losing my baby."

The pregnancy would be like no other.

That was because doctors found in the mother something called pre-eclampsia or a precursor to eclampsia, which is an attack of convulsions during pregnancy.

Brought on by a vascular condition and high blood pressure as well as edema, the mother was told the worst.

"It is very serious and could result in brain seizures or even a stroke. They said I needed lots of bed rest," she said.

Ever the professional, the mother continued her work as a TV newscaster in the early months of the pregnancy. When the 2001 session of the Minnesota Legislature began Jan. 3, she suffered an attack and was immediately hospitalized.

When news spread throughout the community, so well-known are the mother and father, cards, letters, gifts and phone calls of best wishes and prayers started arriving.

On Jan. 17, she was hospitalized again when her condition worsened. When she was released to come home, she was ordered to remain in bed.

Her husband continued juggling work and caring for his wife and the baby inside her.

Away from the public’s attention, the mother held on and the father held on to his wife.

Because of the pre-eclampsia condition, doctors said the baby could not be delivered earlier than 30 weeks.

"Those two weeks, from 28 weeks to 30 weeks of term, were probably the worst of all," the mother recalled.

Late on Feb. 1, the father took his wife to Austin Medical Center, when she became ill. Doctors told her the baby had to come then and she was rushed to Rochester Methodist Hospital in Rochester by a Gold Cross Ambulance Service crew.

But as difficult as the pregnancy was and the dangers of the premature birth, more worries – make that, obstacles – lay ahead.

"The baby had to be turned. It was breech. They got it turned 90 percent or sideways, but it’s head still wasn’t down, to they turned it back to the way it was and told me I could have to have a C-section birth," she said.

Dr. Sean Dowdy delivered the "miracle baby" born 10 weeks early and weighing only 2 pounds 14 ounces.

"I remember they took the baby right away and when they brought it back to me a nurse asked me if I wanted a picture and I said yes. All of a sudden, there was this bright flash and I heard him cry," the mother said.

With the father watching close by in the delivery room, the couple had only a few minutes to inspect their son before the baby was rushed to the neonatal unit of St. Marys Hospital in Rochester.

"It was just indescribable," said the father, who has never been at a loss of words to describe anything in his broadcast life.

Mother and son remained separated, each in a different Rochester hospital, until doctors were certain the fragile child was, indeed, healthy enough. In all, the baby remained in the hospital five weeks after birth, causing mother and father to commute to Rochester from Austin to see their child.

After the baby was released to come home with his parents, more miraculous events happened.

"Think about this," said the father, obviously excited at what he was about to say, "When Steven Daniel was born Feb. 2, he weighed 2 pounds, 14 ounces."

"By March 8, he weighed 4 pounds and 4 ounces and by April 10, he weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces or what he was expected to weigh on his due date. Isn’t that amazing?" the father said.

That the mother would suffer a gall bladder attack and require surgery, while home recovering from the ordeal of a difficult pregnancy and the premature birth of her baby, only underscores how truly amazing the healthy recovery of mother and child was.

But all of Austin and even Mower County were watching from afar and concerned about the birth of so well-known a child.

While his wife was housebound and then hospitalized, the father graciously answered everyone’s inquiries about mother and son.

Reporters on the daily news beat asked questions, law enforcement acquaintances of the couple, courthouse workers and officials, their co-workers at KAUS and KAAL. Everyone asked questions.

"There’s no way we could adequately thank all of the people for their concern, their cards, gifts and calls. People even brought us supper," the father said. "We sincerely appreciate everything they did for us and for Steven Daniel."

Unabashedly, the parents say they are grateful for three things: The great support they received from everyone, having the best medical facilities in the world at their disposal and their "trust in the Lord."

On a day when miracles are being celebrated by Christians around the world, the grunts and suckling sounds coming from the end of a bottle of milk and formula are those of Dan and Carla Conradt’s very own miracle.

And, the left arm extended from a blanket and the tiny fingers curled into a fist, that will someday wear a baseball glove, if his father has anything to say, now points a finger skyward as if to ask, "Do you believe in miracles?"

On this Easter Sunday, there is more than one to believe in.

Call Lee Bonorden at 434-2232 or e-mail him at