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Helping Emilee Survive and Thrive

Emily D White Coat
Emilee was born in 1985 and turned blue as soon as her umbilical cord was cut. She was rushed to Children’s National Hospital, where Dr. Philip Guzzetta surgically repaired a hernia in her diaphragm (the muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavities). At the time, fewer than half of the babies born with this birth defect survived.

Dr. Billie Short, division chief of our neonatology unit was an attending doctor at the time and cared for Emilee after surgery. Emilee’s chances of survival were slim because her left lung hadn’t fully developed. Children’s National recently had become one of the nation’s first children's hospitals to offer extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a machine that temporarily replaces the function of the lungs and sometimes the heart.

Dr. Short thought the new technology might save Emilee’s life. She would be the 18th baby placed on ECMO at our hospital. She went home a month later on oxygen. Over the next year, Emilee’s left lung developed fully. She hit her developmental milestones and, as she grew up strong and healthy, returned to Children’s National for check-ups. “One of my very first memories as a child was of being at Children’s National,” Emilee says. “It felt like home to me.”

Emilee excelled as a student and kept in touch with Dr. Short to discuss a potential career in medicine. Today, she’s a pediatrician at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis. “Dr. Short saved my life,” Emilee says. “I always wanted to be like her when I grew up.”

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