NICU baby has surgery at 5 days old, now thriving “joy boy”

September 30, 2021 | by Kate Gawlik, RN

Pictured above, Dr. Ami Shah and Dr. Bob Covert in Edward Hospital's NICU.

Hearing that a pregnancy has complications is deflating for any parent. Finding a medical team that supports you through decisions and emotions to navigate the complications makes all the difference.

When first-time mom Brittany was 27 weeks pregnant, a fetal ultrasound of Sam, who is now 2 years old and referred to as “joy boy” by his parents, altered the labor plan they had established. This sent Brittany and her husband, Pete, on a journey filled with warmth, reassurance, confidence and caring.

From ultrasound to surgery

Sam’s ultrasound showed an abdominal cyst, and Brittany and Pete were told that they should move their delivery from Elmhurst Hospital, which has a Level IIe Special Care Nursery, to one that has a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The parents also were directed to various healthcare systems and surgeons so they could choose where they wanted to receive care.

One meeting was with neonatologists from Edward-Elmhurst Health, who work at Edward Hospital in Naperville and Elmhurst Hospital. The doctors explained potential risks and outcomes, and highly recommended making a consultation appointment with Dr. Ami Shah, a pediatric surgeon with Edward Medical Group and on staff at Edward Hospital. Dr. Shah is also a faculty member at Rush University Medical Center.

Dr. Shah presented options to Brittany and Pete and agreed with them that a new birth plan should be developed with the potential for surgery.

“Dr. Shah came in and immediately put most of my biggest fears at ease,” Pete remembers. “She seemed confident and calm, but she was also warm and repeatedly asked us if we had any questions. I think we both knew, at that point, that we were going to go wherever Dr. Shah was.”

Brittany adds, “Dr. Shah was warm and reassuring, and I was amazed by the amount of time she spent with us in the consultation and follow-up phone calls. I remember talking to her on the phone and being shocked that a pediatric surgeon, who works out of multiple hospitals and must be insanely busy, would take so much time to put me at ease. We chose Edward Hospital for the delivery and surgery because it is a community hospital, closer to home. Dr. Shah was confident in the surgical team and NICU, and I had every confidence in her.”

Sam was brought to the Edward Hospital NICU after he was delivered by Brittany’s new obstetrician, Dr. Michele Carney. He underwent several tests, ultrasounds and X-rays, all confirming that the cyst was indeed there, though his parents say he looked absolutely perfect on the outside.

The neonatologists and Dr. Shah allowed Sam to breastfeed and bottle feed based on his initial testing. On day three, Dr. Shah again met with the parents and told them she believed it was time to operate on Sam, who began to have blood in his stool that evening.

“It’s never easy to hear that your baby needs to have surgery. As emotional as we were, we trusted Dr. Shah and were comforted by her confidence,” Pete explains.

Surgery was planned for two days later, and Brittany was already discharged from the hospital. The parents checked into the Edward Hospital Ronald McDonald Family Room, which has two sleep rooms.

Dr. Shah and her partner Dr. Mary Beth Madonna removed an enteric duplication cyst along with a small section of intestines with no complications. Sam began to take in breast milk again a few days later and was discharged to home when he was 14 days old. A surgical follow-up appointment gave Sam the all clear for a healthy future with minimal risks.

“Joy boy” on the run

Today, Sam is living up to that prediction as a doting big brother to little sister Isabel. He runs everywhere with a big smile, contagious laughter, a curiosity that makes everyone in the room stop to notice him and an abdominal scar that only tells a tiny part of his story.

What started as a terrifying moment for new parents diagnosed with a complicated pregnancy turned into a joyful boy and a surgical team, neonatologists and nursing staff that Brittany and Pete will never forget.

Some babies are born needing special care. At Edward-Elmhurst Health, we’re fully equipped to care for newborns who require special attention, such as premature infants, infants on ventilators and newborns with congenital conditions. Our transport team is available 24/7 with a dedicated ambulance to transfer high-risk mothers and newborns needing an advanced level of neonatal care to our hospitals.

Edward Hospital provides a Level III NICU—with the capabilities to treat the sickest and most fragile newborns of all gestational ages, including those with a variety of congenital and surgical conditions. Elmhurst Hospital provides a Level IIe Special Care Nursery with extended capabilities to care for low birth weight and premature infants, as well as infants on ventilators, at 30 or more weeks gestation. The neonatologists, maternal fetal medicine doctors and many sub-specialties work across both units to coordinate continuity of care within the system.

Learn more about the NICU and Special Care Nursery at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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