Timothy's Story: Parent's Letter Project ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation)- Timothy’s parents

Our incredible journey started February 11, 1994, when we found out I was pregnant. We had tried for almost a year and we were thrilled that I was expecting! We didn't know the gender of our baby, we wanted it to be a surprise. I had an uneventful pregnancy, working until the last possible day. I started swelling the last few days, so my doctor suggested that I get induced on Friday, October 14, 1994. That night was horrific. I spiked a fever, vomited through the night, and I felt horrible. A nurse broke my water, and it was green, indicating meconium was in my water. My baby's heart rate kept plummeting, and then coming back, plummeting and coming back. Finally, it flatlined and I was rushed to the Operating Room (OR) to have an emergency Cesarian Section (C-Section) (with no anesthesia... that was just so much fun).

Timothy was born at 12:15 pm on October 15, 1994. He was lifeless. The cord was wrapped around his neck and he had gasped at some point in utero, so he had meconium aspiration. His lungs were all but gone, eaten away by the acid in the meconium. They whisked him away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to be put on oxygen to see what could be done. I had an incredible amount of bleeding and went into shock. I saw my baby briefly in the NICU before being taken up to my room. They put me in a room by myself, thankfully, but right next to the maternity ward where all the well-baby moms were staying. I was so depressed.

The two doctors caring for Timothy kept coming up to my room with bad news. Basically, his lungs could not process through any of the oxygen, so he had been deprived of oxygen for several hours. They suggested a novel procedure at Children's National called ECMO but they didn't hold out much hope. He certainly would have significant brain damage and possibly cerebral palsy at this point. My husband and I said we wanted to try anything to help. So, they called Children's and within minutes Matthew Picard, MD, and his team were there, explaining ECMO to us.

Essentially, it is a heart lung machine. It takes out the blood from the body, puts oxygen into it, warms it and then puts it back into the body. This is done through cannulas surgically inserted into the carotid artery and the jugular vein. The procedure to put him on ECMO was risky, so they would not put him on until it was absolutely necessary. This process of waiting to see if he could get on ECMO could take days. My husband and I agreed, so off they went at a quarter to midnight. I received a call from Billie Short, MD, 15 minutes after they left the hospital, telling me that he had to be put on ECMO immediately. My husband, along with our priest, were given a few minutes to baptize Timothy.

The doctors performed the procedure, and he came through with flying colors. His blood gas numbers improved every day but Wednesday, and he was off ECMO by Friday of that week. He stayed in the hospital until the following Saturday because the meconium had given him an E. Coli infection.

Timothy is now a beautiful, strong, thriving, almost 17-year-old young man. He is bright, funny, and athletic and we cherish every day with him. He walked early, talked early, got good grades in school and has lots of friends. He is an elite springboard and platform diver, having competed internationally at Junior Worlds in Germany and in the British Nationals. Other than the scar on the right side of his neck, there are no visible signs that he went through such grave trauma at birth.

We will never forget what happened, but that doesn't define him or our relationship with him.

The people at Children's National were there for us in so many ways. Linda Talley who was his primary nurse, and provided round the clock care, Penny Glass, MD, who provided very informative follow up care, Dr. Short who was just on top of every aspect of his care, and Dr. Picard who was compassionate and caring during one of the worst times of our lives.

Sincerely,

Timothy's Parents, Michael and Yolanda

Treatment Team

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