On February 25th we got the shock of our lives when we learned that not only was Debbie in preterm labor, but the baby that she was carrying had a birth defect called Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH). We were heartbroken and scared beyond belief. We had never heard of CDH. We had so many questions– What is it? Will our baby survive?
CDH is when the baby’s diaphragm fails to properly form (around weeks 7-8 of gestation). The opening that remains allows the abdominal organs to migrate into the upper chest cavity. This crowds the space that is needed for the lungs to grow. The severity of the baby’s CDH, along with ling function determines the prognosis, meaning you don’t know until they are born. Many babies born with CDH require a highly invasive life saving treatment known as Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO). This is a heart and lung bypass machine that allows the infant to rest while having his/her lungs begin to recover.
The tricky part for us was that not only did the baby have a severe right-sided CDH, but at the time of our diagnosis, she was too small to put on ECMO after birth. This combination did not allow for much hope. The only way for the baby to survive was for Debbie to carry as close to full term as possible.
Our son Dusty, who was only 22 months old at the time, came every day to visit his mommy.
After 34 days of endless prayers, well wishes from friends, and much medical intervention, Debbie was considered full term (37 weeks) and the doctors decided to induce her. It was a miracle that they were able to control her contractions this long and it gave our baby a chance of surviving.
At 6:42 PM on March 31, 2008, Peyton Elizabeth Laricks made her entrance into the world after an emergency C-section. To the surprise of many, she made 3 little cries before they whisked her away in order to stabilize her and put her on a ventilator. She was then rushed Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to begin the fight for her life.
On Peyton’s fourth day of life, Dr. Liechty performed surgery to put her organs back where they should be and close the hole in her diaphragm with a gortex patch. Surgery went well, however the next day she took a turn for the worst. Her oxygen levels were extremely low and her heart was beating much too fast. She lost all of the color in her face and lips. In short, she was dying. Dr. Liechty had no choice but to hook her up to the ECMO machine.
Although this machine is designed to save the baby’s life, it comes with many risks and much uncertainty. The number of machines and tubes hooked into our little girl was so unbelievable, that it was hard to explain. We could not get them all into this picture (You can see her little head under the Peyton sign).
While on ECMO, Peyton swelled to about twice her size. It was painful to see. She was so sensitive to light that they kept her face covered. They also put little ear muffs over her ears to shut out the little noise in the NICU.
After 13 long days, Dr. Liechty took her off of ECMO. Now it was up to her lungs to keep her blood oxygenated. Slowly (very slowly) but surely, her swelling began to go down and she began to look more and more like our beautiful little girl again.
Finally on May 8th, 38 days after giving birth to Peyton, Debbie was able to hold her for the first Time.
Then on May 13th, Peyton took another step towards coming home when they took her off of the ventilators. She was now on her own to breath. This was also the first time that we were able to see her entire face.
On June 27th, after 88 days of the scariest roller coaster ride of our lives, Peyton came home to Sea Isle to breathe the great Sea Isle City salt air!
On October 27th, she was readmitted to CHOP for a surgery to help control her reflux and place a feeding tube in her stomach. Luckily, she made it home just in time for Halloween!
Today, our miracle continues to grow and make daily improvements.
There are so many people that have helped us thoughout Peyton’s incredible journey. We are forever gratefull to the amazing CHOP doctors and nurses for taking such excellent care of our daughter. The outpouring of support from family, friends and out cummunity has been incredible.
Now we want to return the favor. Peyton’s Promise is our chance to pay it forward. Please help us raise awareness of CDH and money for research that will hopefully one day help other babies fight this devastating birth defect.
Saturday, June 7th 2014, Sea Isle City.
Followed by a family friendly after party with food, music and raffles!
Location: 43rd and Promenade, Sea Isle City
Registration: 9:30AM / Start Time: 11:00AM
Adults: $25 / Kids 5-12: $10 / Kids under 5: Free!
This year’s Cabin Fever was a great success, thanks to everyone who participated and came out to support!
Stay tuned for next year’s Cabin Fever!