WakeMed one of few hospitals to perform delicate newborn surgery
Posted April 9, 2013
Two weeks before the birth of their daughter, Debbie Blackman and Brian Pezzulo had every reason to believe all was well.
“But then we came in for an ultrasound because they said that she looked a little small,” Pezzulo said.
Doctors decided to induce labor. Kiara weighed almost 5 pounds. She was hungry, but she couldn't feed without vomiting and coughing.
A simple chest X-ray confirmed a rare condition called tracheoesophageal fistula. From the mouth down, the esophagus ends in a pouch. The other end, leading from the stomach, is attached to the trachea. There was no surgery to fix the problem until 1939.
“So up until the mid-1900s, babies that were born with this all died,” said Dr. David Hoover, a WakeMed pediatric surgeon.
Hoover said that until about 10 years ago, the fix required a large incision opening up the chest. Now it can be done with small incisions.
“Just by using a scope in the chest, in the thorax, we can use small incisions in accomplishing what we used to accomplish with very large incisions,” he said.
Attaching the ends of the esophagus is delicate work in a very tiny space next to the heart.
Kiara’s surgery was the first time the minimally invasive procedure was performed at WakeMed. A recent study showed only 65 places in this country offer the procedure for this rare condition.
“We were very scared,”Blackman said. “After we talked to (Hoover), we felt really comfortable because he was extremely confident. He was like, ‘Yeah, I got this.’”
All went well and Kiara went home more than a week earlier than she would have with open surgery.
“She’s gaining weight, she’s looking good and she’s feeding well,” Hoover said.
Added Blackman: “When she tasted that first sip of milk in her mouth, it was all good from there. There was no turning back.”