Tracking William’s Journey, One of Jefferson’s Tiniest Patients

In 2018, an incredibly vulnerable, tiny patient, named William, was born at Jefferson via an emergency C-section at 17 weeks premature, 23 weeks gestation.

In 2018, an incredibly vulnerable, tiny patient, named William, was born at Jefferson via an emergency C-section at 17 weeks premature, 23 weeks gestation. He weighed only 1 lb. 4.9oz. For 85 days, he survived with the support of a ventilator in the womb-like atmosphere of a highly technical incubator with the help of countless IV fluids and breastmilk through a feeding tube.

With the knowledge that developmental care can decrease the length of hospital stay and improve long-term outcomes of premature and critically ill infants, William’s medical team recognized the importance of collaborating with neonatal occupational and physical therapists to provide supportive care to reduce infant stress. He endured numerous tests, blood transfusions, laser eye surgery in an effort to save his eyesight, hernia surgery, and a host of other examinations and treatments.

Thankfully, William responded beautifully to the therapy. As he grew, he was able to tolerate increased handling and movement for motor and sensory-based interventions designed to promote achievement of typical developmental skills and motor patterns. His parents embraced this approach to care and participated in his therapy sessions on a regular basis, allowing them to be fully engaged in the process, and to be able to touch, hold, and care for William.

Despite all of the obstacles William had to overcome since birth, he not only survived, but thrived. After six months in Jefferson’s Intensive Care Nursery (ICN), he was able to go home with his family.

William with this family in front of the Christmas tree

William celebrated his second birthday this January, and continues to live a happy life with his older brother and sister, Matthew and Olivia.

“He is just about the happiest little guy you could meet,” says William’s mother, Jessica Getty. “He’s quite smart and very curious. We are incredibly proud of our 23-week miracle.”

Recently, William was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, which is not uncommon for babies born prematurely. He receives occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech/feeding therapy twice a week through Nemours duPont Pediatrics, as well as in-home services provided by Early Intervention.

“We are doing all we can to ensure that William reaches his full potential. His diagnosis does not make him any less of a success story,” says Jessica. “In fact, had I delivered at our local hospital there would be no story to tell, because William would not be here.”

You see, the Getty’s local hospital only considers pregnancies viable at 24 weeks or later. Had William been born there, they would not have resuscitated him as Jefferson did.

“I’m fairly confident had we not found ourselves at Jefferson for our complicated delivery, I would not be here either,” says Jessica. “We are forever indebted to Dr. Jason Baxter, who delivered William, and the team of doctors, nurses and various therapists who cared for him along the way.”

William in a high chair playing with a toy laptop

The ICN at Jefferson is a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that provides advanced care and treatment every day for babies born with a variety of conditions. Due to complications at birth and extended hospitalizations, which can negatively influence the developing brain, many infants in the ICN are at-risk for developmental delays following their discharge home.

In order to prevent the short and long-term developmental delays/disabilities often associated with premature and medically fragile infants, developmental supportive care is the standard of care for all infants in the Jefferson ICN. Developmental care is a family-centered, evidence-based approach to the care of high-risk infants that supports neurodevelopment by minimizing infant stress and providing an optimal environment for each infant.

This particular type of care requires the effort of a multidisciplinary team of professionals, speech-language pathologists, neonatologists, nurse practitioners, residents, neonatal nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, social workers, case managers, child-life specialists, and physical and occupational therapists, along with experts from Nemours duPont Pediatrics.

“…we are hopeful that he will continue to surprise us by defying the odds stacked against him. He teaches us so much about patience & resilience.”

— Jessica Getty

The commitment of all the team members and their developmental care approach were significant contributing factors to the survival of William and his positive outcome.

According to mom, William is learning new words every day, along with beginning to sit up independently. He will soon be starting intensive therapy at Nemours duPont Pediatrics, where he will spend three days a week for 8 – 10 weeks.

“William has been a surprise, every step of the way – from his conception, his very scary birth at just 23 weeks, his six month ICN stay and now his cerebral palsy diagnosis,” says Jessica. “But we are hopeful that he will continue to surprise us by defying the odds stacked against him. He teaches us so much about patience & resilience.”

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