A Rough Start
Patient Name : Dillon Lambert
“This is going to be a normal baby; he will come home with me,” Joanne Lambert thought often through her second pregnancy. Her daughter, Mackenzie, came seven weeks early and had to spend the first part of her life in the hospital. Even though three years had passed, Joanne did not want to relive that experience. She prayed often for her second baby to reach full term.
One day shy of being full term, Joanne went into labor. On Sunday, February 24, 2002, Dillon arrived weighing nearly six pounds. Though slightly jaundiced, Dillon was allowed to go home with his proud parents, Joanne and her husband Jeff. They were able to treat the jaundice at home. Dillon lay in a light box that resembled an open silver briefcase with bulbs on the top and bottom, and could only be taken out for diaper changes. This was not exactly what Joanne had longed for, but at least she had her son at home.
After two days of having him home, Jeff took Dillon to change his diaper. In the middle of the process, Dillon threw up a dark green substance. Jeff began calling Dillon’s pediatrician for counsel. In the meantime, Joanne nursed her small son, but when she went to burp him, he again threw up even more of the dark green liquid. Their pediatrician advised that they measure Dillon’s stomach to monitor its size and to take him to the emergency room should it happen again.
Again, Dillon threw up a considerable amount of dark green fluid so the Lamberts rushed Dillon to Orlando Regional Medical Center. As the team inserted a catheter and an IV, Dillon did not move. He had become lethargic. After several tests, pediatric surgeon Marc Levy, MD, and neonatologist Brian Lipman, MD, took time to explain to the Lamberts that Dillon suffered from necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), an infection of the intestine that is not uncommon in extremely premature babies, but rare in full term infants like Dillon. Joanne listened, but seemed distant, as shock took over.
Dr. Lipman admitted Dillon to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. Most babies in the NICU had never been outside the hospital, much less home, but Dillon was unique. He was critical. He had tubes and monitors attached all over him. As he lay in only his diaper in the small bed, Joanne thought, “This is not the normal baby I was going to take home.”
She continued to stay as close as she could to her son. Nurse Jan Chesney greeted the nervous mother with a smile that immediately set her at ease. During the first few days, Joanne could not hold Dillon, but Jan helped her do all she could to still feel like a mother to her sick son. “I could tell that Jan really cared about my little boy, and that made it a little easier for me to leave him at night.” Joanne remembers the calming sense of trust she felt.
After a week, Dillon had improved enough to move to a less critical room. Joanne had mixed feelings because it meant Jan would no longer be at his side. However, the sadness did not last long, because nurse Pam Seigler continued the same compassionate care. “Pam taught me a lot about caring for my little one, with all of his IVs, g-tube, and leads.” When Pam suggested Joanne give Dillon a bath, she looked at her in surprise. Tears welled up. She had not been able to bathe her son since the second day he was home. Together they bathed him. “I felt like we were a team.” Joanne treasures the memory of this moment, still feeling her hand rub over his small body.
After nineteen days in the NICU, Dillon could return home. His doctor explained that he had a thirty percent chance of experiencing a blockage in his bowels. In Joanne’s excitement, the warning went in one ear and out the other. They were going home!
A week later, Dillon’s belly began to swell again and he became violently ill. Joanne and her husband rushed him back to Arnold Palmer Hospital. As the intestine healed from the infection, it had closed off, creating a blockage. Tests showed five different blockages, which would have to be removed surgically. The following day, Joanne carried her small son downstairs to the operating room while a nurse rolled the IV cart along side her. She cried the entire way. She laid her son on the small bed and walked away. Her tears stopped as she entered the waiting room where she and Jeff waited. Dr. Levy returned much sooner than they expected and quickly said, “No Mom, he doesn’t have an ostomy pouch,” quickly putting her at ease. Dr. Levy then sat with them and drew a diagram of what he had done to remove the multiple blockages.
Five days later the family returned home, this time fully understanding that Dillon may suffer from further blockages. By his eight-week routine check-up, his abdomen had swelled. X-rays showed a new partial intestinal blockage that would require more surgery. Everyone agreed to wait until he was a little older and stronger, but two months later, his pre-op testing revealed the blockage had disappeared.
Dillon celebrated his third birthday in February 2005. “Now he just has regular little boy illnesses,” Joanne says with a smile as she looks at her son who still drags his blue knit blanket he received in the NICU behind him. “He is a happy, active little boy with no apparent lasting effects from his rough start in life. I am eternally grateful to Jan, Pam, Dr. Lipman, Dr. Levy and all the Arnold Palmer Hospital staff for saving my son’s life. We were truly blessed to have them in our lives during such a trying time,” shares Joanne.