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Quick action by Lurie Children’s experts saves Gavin’s arm

August 17, 2020

Ashley and Daniel were preparing themselves for their newborn to lose his right arm.

Just minutes after he was born six weeks prematurely, baby Gavin, along with his dad, was transported to Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago from the Rockford hospital where he was born. A lack of blood flow to Gavin’s arm meant it had to be amputated, physicians in Rockford had told the family.

“There’s nothing like sitting in a hospital room after a C-section with no baby, hearing other babies out in the hall, and sitting there worrying about whether your baby is going to lose an arm,” Ashley said.

Surgery for the newborn

When Gavin arrived at Lurie Children’s, he was quickly met by three specialists: Orthopedic Surgeon Erik King, MD, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon Akira Yamada, MD, and Neonatologist Jill Chang, MD.

The baby’s swollen right arm appeared flaccid; an ultrasound had shown a blood clot. The Lurie Children’s physicians told Daniel his baby would immediately need surgery.

“We had to discuss the medical risks of surgery and risk of anesthesia on a 12-hour newborn,” Dr. King recalled. “But we had the confidence in knowing that we had the world-class neonatal and pediatric anesthesia care.”

Less than an hour after discussing Gavin’s condition with his dad, the baby was in the operating room. At that time, Dr. King and Dr. Yamada performed the first of three surgeries on Gavin’s arm alongside Nicholas Burjek, MD, an expert in pediatric anesthesiology.

In the surgeries, Dr. King and team cut the tissue that was constricting in Gavin’s arm and cutting off oxygen to it, leaving it open to allow oxygen to enter. A few days later, Gavin returned to the OR with Dr. King to ensure they had released the constricted tissue enough. In a third procedure, six days later, Dr. King and team removed all the damaged tissue and closed the wound for good. By this time, Ashley, who had recovered from giving birth, was able to join her husband and son.

“Everyone at Lurie Children’s is just amazing, but I credit Dr. King with saving his arm and knowing what to do right away,” Ashley said.

Meeting milestones and giving thanks

Gavin stayed at Lurie Children’s nationally-ranked Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, for about 13 days under the care of Dr. King, but also Lurie Children’s specialists in Neurosurgery, Hematology, Pediatric Surgery, Occupational Therapy, Child Life and Social Work.

When Gavin was finally discharged with his happy parents, the blood flow to his arm had improved, and since then, his progress has stunned both his family and physicians.

Dr. King with Gavin

Gavin, who turned one in May, has near-normal function of his right arm, with the ability to move his shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist and fingers.

He continues to do physical therapy, now mostly from home due to COVID-19, and Ashley and Daniel said they are thrilled by their baby’s progress. Dr. King said he anticipates continued progressive improvement for the boy.

“I think of Dr. King and the entire Lurie Children’s team every time I watch my son do something new,” Ashley said. “Each time I watch him pick up Cheerios, clap his hands or throw a toy with his right arm, I think of how lucky we were to be sent there the night he was born. I think of all the opportunities he has in the future because of them.”