Miracle on Fannin Street
Updated: Tuesday, 23 Mar 2010, 4:34 PM CDT
Published : Tuesday, 23 Mar 2010, 3:49 PM CDT
by MELISSA WILSON
HOUSTON - A couple from San Antonio has been living in the Texas Medical Center for half a year, mostly at the bedside of their baby boy. As part of our Children's Miracle Network series, FOX 26 News is providing stories about Houston-area doctors who are saving lives.
The Nichols family decided they would pack up their bags and temporarily move to Houston for specialized care at Texas Children's Hospital. They now know that it was the right thing to do.
Tina Nichols underwent a routine ultrasound, when she was almost six months pregnant. It turned out to be anything but routine for her.
Doctors found a malformation and were extremely concerned about Nichols. They told her that her first option was to terminate her pregnancy. She and her husband refused that and chose to fight for their baby's life.
Now, the couple has a beautiful five-month-old baby boy named James. He was born with a rare condition, called Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia, or CDH. His case was even more unique, because he was born prematurely and weighed only three pounds.
"Premature babies always have problems with their lungs to start off with, so not only did he have a diaphramatic hernia, but was also born premature. Those combined could've been a fatal combination in his case," says pediatric surgeon Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye.
Dr. Olutoye performed the life-saving surgery on baby James. CDH affects approximately one in 4,000 babies.
"I had never heard of it before, but it's a hole in the diaphragm. His insides, his stomach and his spleen, were all up in his chest," explains James' mother. That makes it hard for his lungs to grow. Approximately 10 days after James was born, he was strong enough for surgery.
Dr. James Adams is a senior neo-natologist at Texas Childrens' Hospital and served as the medical director for more than 30 years. He has been following James and showed images of James' chest to FOX 26 News in order to help people better understand the condition.
Doctors say it was a challenging surgery, because first of all, most diaphragmatic hernias take place on either the left or right side of the chest but James' was right in the middle of his chest. Then, surgeons wanted to live up to the Nichols wishes; they are Jehovah's Witnesses.
"We don't accept blood tranfusions at all. We accept alternatives, safe alternative transfusions, like blood fractions, which we did in his case, to help build up his blood supply," says Tina Nichols.
The Nichols were relieved that surgeons at Texas Children's Hospital respected their wishes.
"We say we chase every red blood cell that tries to escape, so we're very meticulous in terms of that, but it's always nice to have the back-up for blood, should we need it," says Dr. Olutoye. Doctors were able to complete the surgery without a transfusion, but say they're obligated to transfuse for life-threatening conditions.
James is growing stronger every day. Dr. Adams says he's still going to have to be supported with a respirator for awhile to help him breathe. Adams says that means that James will have to be followed by Texas Childrens' sub-specialty groups to monitor his liver function and keep a close eye on his growth and nutrition, and to decide whether he will need additional surgeries.
All of this is just a minor setback for the Nichols. They say they waited 18 years to have their little James, now they are ready to bundle him up and take him home, where he belongs.
"I didn't realize how much you could love a child, until you have your own, but he means everything!" says James' loving mother.