Monica's Story: Parent's Letter ProjectDiaphragmatic hernia- Monica’s mom

Monica could not breathe at birth. The anesthesiologist in the delivery room kept her alive and breathing until the Children's National infant transport with John Van Brakle, MD, and nurse arrived. Dr. Van Brakle quickly diagnosed Monica's condition as diaphragmatic hernia - her bowels were in her chest pushing her heart against her lungs, and her lungs had never expanded.

They rushed Monica to Children's National for life-saving surgery at 5-hours old (she had a second hernia repair at 20 days old to reposition her intestines). She spent her first five weeks at Children's National. Kathryn Anderson, MD, was the wonderful pediatric surgeon who saved my daughter's life. 

Luckily for us, Monica did amazingly well. During her first five years she "spit out" some stitches here and there. She also had lots of adhesions as a result of the two surgeries. During her first 22 years, she had episodes of her bowels getting twisted and possibly obstructing. She would be hospitalized for 2-3 days until the possible obstruction was averted.

In 2008, Monica became pregnant with her first child. We searched the internet to see how survivors of diaphragmatic hernias fared during pregnancy. No information could be found. Monica had a wonderful and problem-free pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

Last spring Monica became pregnant again. When she was 20 weeks pregnant, the old adhesions finally gave way to a full blown bowel obstruction. She underwent four hours of emergency surgery for a bowel obstruction and bowel resection. Her surgeon said she had so many adhesions he was surprised she had not obstructed years earlier.

Happily for all, Monica gave birth to a full term healthy baby boy this past December. Tonight is the eve of my daughter's 35th birthday. I will forever be grateful to the doctors and nurses of Children's National.


Monica's mom, Linda

Treatment Team

  • John Snyder
    Division Chief, Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition