At their 19-week ultrasound, Christin and Mauricio walked into the clinic excited to find out the gender of their twin babies. On the screen they saw one boy, and one girl. 20 fingers, and 20 toes. But, they were then shocked to learn that their unborn baby boy had congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). This was the first they had ever heard of this life-threatening fetal condition. CDH occurs when the diaphragm muscle fails to close during prenatal development. Without that muscular plate between the chest and abdomen, Nathaniel’s stomach, intestines and liver had pushed up into his chest, preventing his lungs from developing, and resulting in critical heart and lung problems.
They continued to go for ultrasounds to monitor Nathaniel’s development. Christin and Mauricio set up an appointment right away with a surgeon at the Alberta Children’s Hospital to see what could be done to save their son’s life once he was born. The twins were born at Foothills Hospital at 38 weeks through induction. Nathaniel was immediately intubated and put into the ICU. Once stabilized, he was transferred to the ACH Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). When Nathaniel was born, he was so sick he would not have typically been considered a candidate for surgery at other hospitals. However, thanks to community-funded research led by the Alberta Children’s Hospital, more very sick, high-risk babies are surviving this life-threatening condition. Based on results from their study, Nathaniel’s surgeons knew they could help.
At just eight days old, Nathaniel underwent a complex operation to repair his diaphragm and place his internal organs where they were meant to be. Although there were some difficult days after Nathaniel’s surgery, at 10 weeks old he was finally able to go home. Christin and Mauricio are so grateful that Nathaniel’s surgeons chose to fight to save his life and make sure every resource was available to him. Today he is a perfect, smiley baby. They continue to go to the CDH clinic every couple of months for check-ups. The research findings by surgeons at the Alberta Children’s Hospital were so compelling that they are now influencing surgical practice across North America.
Nathaniel’s father, Mauricio, says if this were 10 years earlier, they wouldn’t be here telling the same story. They feel grateful to live in Calgary and have the team from the Alberta Children’s Hospital fight to save their son’s life.
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