An Oklahoma couple with a two percent chance of having a baby gave birth in July to a little girl. However, their excitement turned to fear in the delivery room.
“It was just extremely scary,” said Stacie Tosh.
Despite a happy and easy pregnancy, Stacie and Grant Tosh's daughter Avaleigh was born in distress.
“I saw her for about three seconds,” said Stacie. “I at least got to hold her for a second.”
The newborn had a congenital diaphragmatic hernia, a birth defect where the diaphragm doesn't form properly allowing her intestines to move into her right lung.
“She ended up getting pulmonary hypertension because of the pressure on her lungs,” she said.
Avaleigh was flown from the Tulsa area to the Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City, where Dr. Alex Ruiz put her on an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation machine or ECMO.
“Since her vessels are thicker and she can't exchange that oxygen very well there's no way for us to give it to her through the breathing tube,” said Dr. Ruiz, an Asst. Professor of Pediatric Surgery at OU.
That's where the ECMO comes in. It gives the heart and lungs a break by pumping the blood through a chamber to give it oxygen and then back into the body.
“To some extent the best medication that we have for the high blood pressure in the lungs is oxygen,” said Dr. Ruiz.
Avaleigh was on the ECMO for five days while doctors repaired the hernia. The couple is living in a camper near the hospital, so they can visit her every day while she recovers in the neonatal intensive care unit.
“As long as I know she's improving, I'm ok,” said Grant Tosh, Avaleigh’s father. “You can definitely tell she has a personality and everything, she's always smiling and making faces.”
Avaleigh is now breathing on her own and once she gets her feeding down, the family can go home.
“It's just exciting to get to see those little things just getting to experience that not knowing almost a month ago, if we'd even have her still,” said Stacie. “It’s pretty amazing what all they can do.”
The ECMO machine is one of two in the state that can be used for pediatric care. The couple hopes to bring Avaleigh home in two weeks.