Infant's Survival a LeBonheur Miracle
Updated: Thursday, 25 Mar 2010, 6:34 PM CDT
Published : Thursday, 25 Mar 2010, 6:07 PM CDT
by Lauren Johnson
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - FOX stations have partnered with the Children's Miracle Network to bring you heartwarming stories from children's hospitals around the country. This month, a family called FOX13 to share their gratitude for one pediatric surgeon at LeBonheur Children's Medical Center.
The doctor, family members say, is the only reason their 3 month old son is still alive.
Serenaded by lullabies, 3 month old Shawn Sheppard, Jr. has spent his entire life in one place.
"It's hard to come in and see your baby laying there, fighting for its life, not knowing one day from the next, you're on pins and needles," said mother Mary Sheppard.
Fear and uncertainty unnerve Mary, as it has since she was 4 months pregnant. The mother went in to see a specialist in Little Rock when an ultrasound detected a diaphragmatic hernia.
"Basically it was a little hole Shawn had developed in his diaphragm that allowed his organs to be able to come up into his chest," explained father Shawn Sheppard.
With no muscle separating his abdominal and chest cavities, his tiny organs were shifting. His heart, lungs, and liver were pulled into the chest.
The high risk pregnancy sent the couple into a panic. Unsure of the baby's health, they needed a children's hospital, and fast.
With several choices from Vanderbilt in Nashville to San Francisco or Boston, they safely set on LeBonheur Children's Medical Center in Memphis, 180 miles away from their home and two other children back in Batesville, Arkansas.
They are just a loving, caring children's hospital" said Mary. "You're not really dealing with an adult hospital that doesn't know about the children."
Mary Sheppard met with Dr. Max Langham before she delivered Shawn Junior.
Langham knew what was ahead of him with Shawn's birth defect. When he was born, he was sent to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. The first 12 days of his life were spent connected to machines that filtered his blood, and helped him breathe. In essence, the technology kept him alive. From there, he was moved to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. He's been in Room 4 since January.
"Medically, with medical evidence, he would not likely live," said Shawn. "That's when Dr. Langham had approached us and said 'Can I at least have one try to make this happen?'"
This doctor, they say, went above and beyond his call of duty. They describe him as being different from others.
"He came in when he was off work, on a moment's notice he would come in, console us, and say anytime you need to talk just call me, he was always there and still is."
Langham made a promise to the nervous couple; a pact they say kept their son alive.
"He told us, 'i can't make you any promises but I'm going to do my best,'" said Mary.
"If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have him...and he's an amazing person," said Shawn.
Langham, a pediatric surgeon at the children's hospital, is modest about the high praises from the family, calling it a team effort at LeBonheur.
"LeBonheur is a special place; it's been my privilege to work here," said Dr. Langham. "I think its a great children's hospital, and we really have all the bells and whistles to take care of very sick children who would not survive in a general hospital."
Langham believes real advances in healthcare are often done in specialty-specific places, like children's hospitals.
"I think having a team that's dedicated to specific problems allows you to get better at doing that."
A team that's saving lives, and creating miracles, for parents like Shawn and Mary.
"My child wouldn't be alive today if it wasn't for this doctor, or this hospital."
For Shawn Sheppard and his family, LeBonheur is more than a hospital in Memphis, it's a place where miracles happen, and lives are changed.