VILLA RICA, Ga. - As Americans hit "pause" to give thanks, Heather and David Collings of Carroll County feel especially grateful.
"I'm extra thankful, number one, that I'm even here, that I survived what I went through," Heather Collings says.
Because five years ago this week, their son Lyndon was born seven weeks early in a difficult delivery.
On Black Friday, he will celebrate his fifth birthday.
"I was [always] thankful for family, friends, different things in our life with work and our businesses," David Collings says. "Now, it's an even deeper thankfulness that I have."
Years before Lyndon arrived, Heather, then in her twenties, was diagnosed with and treated for a heart rhythm disorder known as supraventricular tachycardia.
It meant that in 2018 when the Collings learned they were pregnant, Heather was considered a higher-risk patient.
But, the Collings say things went smoothly, at least for the first seven months.
"My pregnancy was easy," Heather Collings remembers. "Hardly any morning sickness. I had just had a great pregnancy. I loved being pregnant."
On the Monday before Thanksgiving 2018, the Collings went in for a routine checkup.
"My blood pressure was a little high at the beginning of the visit," Heather says. "It continued to increase throughout the visit."
Her blood pressure got so high, her doctor sent Collings for tests at Tanner Medical Center, where she was hospitalized with severe preeclampsia, a blood pressure disorder during pregnancy.
Heather's obstetrician and gynecologist, Dr. Amy Goss of Tanner Healthcare for Women, says preeclampsia can present risks for both mom and her baby.
Heather's blood pressure, Dr. Goss says, was extremely high and they were unable to bring it down.
"It can carry a lot of risks for the mom," she says. "It can increase the risk of eclampsia, which is when the mom develops seizures, the risk of stroke, heart attack, and ultimately can increase the risk of maternal death."
Heather Collings says she was terrified.
"I never had the thought of, ‘Am I going to make it? Is he going to make it,’" she says. "Those thoughts never crossed my mind because I was just living it, doing what I had to do. But just the unknown of what to expect [was frightening]."
Heather would spend the next 12 days in the hospital.
"I left the hospital to grab a suitcase that first night, and I think I was home for 10 minutes, and Heather's mom called and was like, 'She needs you back,'" David Collings remembers.
Heather was given two rounds of magnesium sulfate to try to lower her blood pressure.
"The gist of it is they were trying to ensure that I did not have a stroke because my blood pressure was so high," she says. "So, going through that, your brain's super foggy. I was super sick. I couldn't get out of the bed. I could barely lift my arms."
"We had to get through it," her husband says. "We didn't have any other option."
Induced on Wednesday, Heather spent Thanksgiving in labor with Dr. Goss by her side.
Lyndon was born on Black Friday.
In the NICU, he was impossibly tiny, but healthy.
Later, Heather Collings says, she started to realized how common preeclampsia is.
"So many people have had it that I've come in contact with, that I had no idea even had it that I was friends with," she says.
Lyndon (Photo submitted by family)
This Thanksgiving, the Collings say, they will be celebrating Lyndon, and remembering the week that changed their lives.
"When you think about what you're thankful for, you don't really think of life as what you're thankful for," Heather Collings says. "And, that's what I'm thankful for, is just being able to be here and live the life that I do live, with the family that I do have, with my husband, with our dog, and with our son that came into [our lives] during this season."