Little James Ruttan wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for dozens of different experts at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and the love of one other special person – his twin brother Theo.
Parents Kristina and Aaron were thrilled to learn they were pregnant with twins. Then a 13- week ultrasound showed the babies were conjoined at their umbilical cords, sharing portions of their urinary and digestive systems. As a result, Theo was missing the amniotic fluid needed to develop his lungs. Their joy was shattered as they were left to prepare for the sad possibility that their babies might not survive. Kristina describes the rest of her pregnancy as a “palliative pregnancy.” At only 29 ½ weeks, in June, the babies went into fetal distress, prompting labour. After James and Theo were delivered via emergency C-section at the Foothills, pediatric surgeon Dr. Andrea Lo came over from the Alberta Children’s Hospital to perform a surgery that would disconnect the arteries in the shared cord and keep them alive for their intricately planned transport to the Alberta Children’s Hospital.
With the help of dozens of hospital staff caring for them, the twins were safely transported to the Alberta Children’s Hospital via the Pediatric Critical Care Transport Team. But Theo began to fail, so Dr. Lo performed another operation to disconnect the twins’ bowel and bladders and digestive system. Theo stayed alive just long enough to give James a chance at survival, and then he passed away. James underwent a reconstructive surgery to build his own urinary and digestive system.
For the next 2 ½ months, James recovered in the Edwards Family Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where with the help of his incredibly loving care team, he grew stronger. Kristina recalls how the nurses would swaddle James with beautiful wraps and always knew his name. They helped him learn how to take a soother, so Kristina could successfully breastfeed him. And they made Kristina and Aaron feel part of James’ care team, while also helping them grieve their loss of Theo. Six weeks later, James underwent another surgery on his bladder by Dr. Fermin- Risso. James still has ongoing medical needs for his bowels and bladder and will require future surgeries to continue to improve his outcomes. The hospital has given him the best quality of life and will continue to care for him as he grows.
Kristina can’t say enough about the surgery and NICU teams at the hospital. “They gave me James.” Not only did the hospital save his life, it will continue to be his lifeline.
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