It’s usually a time for joy. The first ultrasound gives parents a sneak peek at the baby who’s on the way. For Nicole Jackson, though, that visit left her with a lot of fear. The doctor saw something that wasn’t quite right, and confirmed it about five weeks later. Her baby would be born with gastroschisis.
Gastroschisis happens when a baby’s abdominal walls don’t form correctly, creating a hole which allows the intestines and other organs to grow outside the body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 1,871 babies are born with this condition each year in the United States. It requires surgery almost immediately after birth.
“I was devastated,” said Jackson. “You never think anything like that could happen to you or your child. I was a mess.” Doctors assured her there wasn’t anything she could’ve done to prevent the problem, and told her a pediatric surgeon would be on standby when she delivered.
Because of the complication, Jackson’s doctor kept a very close eye on her pregnancy. An ultrasound at 32 weeks gestation showed the baby’s intestines were enlarged, so Jackson came to Mercy to deliver her baby by cesarean section. Little Azriel Dominique Hernandez weighed just two pounds and six ounces. Mercy Kids pediatric surgeon Dr. Troy Spilde was ready to jump in to help.
“Gastroschisis is a fairly urgent condition,” Dr. Spilde explained. “We have to get the intestines covered fairly quickly. We get into an operating room with our team quickly for these little ones.”
While waiting was difficult, Jackson says the surgery seemed quick, and Azriel came out of it just fine. After a few days of sedation on a ventilator, Azriel was eating at five days old. “We were just amazed at her progress,” said Jackson.
Several weeks in Mercy’s neonatal intensive care unit followed. Despite the daily, 45-minute drive from Bolivar, Nicole says having the specialized care her family needed so close to home was a blessing. “I can only imagine if we’d had to go to St. Louis or Kansas City for care,” she said. “I would’ve had to choose between staying with my newborn or seeing my older son every day. I feel very fortunate that they have the pediatric surgeons here.”
Those surgeons are part of a Mercy Kids team that includes more than 700 pediatricians, family doctors and 125 pediatric specialists across the four states Mercy serves. For Jackson, having those doctors available in Springfield meant a lot. “Mercy has truly helped our daughter and our family beyond our expectations.”