Beth and Julian were excited to bring home their healthy baby boy, Blás, until their world came to a halt. Blás stopped eating a few hours after birth. His stomach became rock hard, and he spit up an alarming amount requiring his nurses to suction his stomach.
“Everything happened so quickly,” according to Julian. The doctors at the hospital where Beth gave birth told her, “We think we know what the problem is, but he’s going to have to go to Lurie Children’s.” So, the waiting game began. All Beth could think is, “What are we going to do?”
Once they arrived at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Blás was diagnosed with an imperforate anus; a type of anorectal malformation. This defect has a broad spectrum of severities, but usually causes the anus, rectum and pelvic nerves to not develop adequately and prevents regular bowel movements.
Coming to terms with all of this information, Beth and Julian felt overwhelmed, “Blás was only 24 hours old,” Julian said. “It was a whirlwind of emotions.”
After being diagnosed, pediatric surgeon Julia Grabowski, MD performed an operation to create a colostomy. A few months later, Dr. Grabowski did the pull-through procedure that created his neo-anus. Once he had recovered from that procedure, the stoma was able to be closed and Blás is now able to stool through his new anal opening. “After five months, the stoma was gone and Blás is now healthy and thriving,” said Dr. Grabowski.
Fast forward six months, Blás is as happy as can be and always smiling. “He’s always on the go and doesn’t want to miss out on anything,” said Beth. “I don’t even know how to express my gratitude to Dr. Grabowski. She is a lifesaver.”
By working with Dr. Grabowski, who now leads the Lurie Children’s Colorectal Center with Alison Osborne, APRN and Taylor Sepuha, BSN, RN, Julian and Beth know Blás is in good hands. Through the bowel management program at the Colorectal Center, Blás and his parents have the skills they need to handle his bowel habits through regulated diets, medications, and more.
So far, Beth feels, “It’s really nothing different. He doesn’t really have a strict diet, but my concern is what he can and can’t eat.” This is where Dr. Grabowski’s expertise comes in handy. The Lagunas family isn’t going to let Blás’s diet restrictions take control of their lives. Beth’s hope is, “Maybe we will become a more healthy family as a whole.”
As for bowel management, Beth and Julian are confident in Dr. Grabowski’s ability to answer any and all questions when the time comes for toilet training Blás. “I know I will have so many questions once we get to that stage,” said Beth.
“I’ll be following him for the rest of his life,” said Dr. Grabowski. This is common for those who are treated in our Colorectal Center to ensure they continue living a healthy lifestyle, so their life can remain as easy and manageable as possible for years to come.
The Colorectal Center primarily treats patients with surgical colorectal and anal disorders, including congenital anomalies such as anorectal malformations, cloaca, and Hirshprung disease. The Center also treats patients with other congenital or acquired disorders that cause constipation and incontinence.
Many patients also benefit from the Colorectal Health Institute for Pediatrics (CHIPs) clinic. This multidisciplinary clinic is led by specialists from both pediatric surgery and gastroenterology. The team includes gastroenterologist John Fortunato, MD, Julie Shotwell, APRN and Laura Fountain, APRN, as well as the surgical team from the Colorectal Center. In addition, it also features a social worker and a dietician, and a Spanish interpreter is always available. This extended care referral-based-program is unique within the region and provides our patients with a broader spectrum of care and expertise.
“Everything you hear is how the care team at Lurie Children’s is ‘the best,’” said Julian. “Once you have the experience, you know they are the best. You’re dealing with the best.”