The youngest of three, Caleb Loehman, came as a bit of a surprise to his parents Angela and Michael.
Angela and Michael Loehman were just settling in to life with two children when they found out they were expecting again.
"Caleb was total surprise," Angela and Michael say. "Our second child was only six months old and we were still getting used to having two kids when we found out we were expecting. We were happy, but really surprised to find out we were going to have a third child. My pregnancy was great and I didn't have any complications."
Angela was scheduled to deliver Caleb by induction on October 4, 2013, but Caleb had other plans. She went into labor September 16 while at work. She was rushed to the hospital and Caleb was born at five pounds, nine ounces.
"He was doing well and everything was great," Angela recalls. "On the first day, he was spitting up a lot of amniotic fluid. This concerned us, but the medical staff just said he had a lot of fluid in his stomach and they weren't concerned because it's normal for babies to spit up. As the day went on, he kept doing it over and over and he wouldn't keep anything down when I was feeding him."
Caleb's first night home was a rough one for him and his parents. Angela was feeding him every two hours, but Caleb refused to keep anything down. The next day at his pediatric checkup, Dr. Doug Schultz became concerned when he noticed Caleb had lost a considerable amount of weight. He readmitted Caleb to the hospital and immediately started tests that revealed a blockage.
"Milk could go in his stomach, but it was blocked from entering his intestines," Dr. Schultz says. "His stomach was getting bigger and bigger, and it became so large it eventually filled up his abdomen. Caleb was in the NICU and thankfully we were able to bring equipment to the unit to study his intestines, isolate the blockage and identify that Caleb had duodenal atresia. Because he was born with the blockage, he could not survive unless it was fixed."
Once the blockage was discovered, Caleb was flown to Cook Children's Hospital for emergency surgery. Dr. Schultz describes the procedure like fixing a plumbing issue—surgeons remove the section housing the blockage and repair the intestines.
"It's a delicate surgery," he adds. "It's considered one of the true pediatric emergency surgical conditions there are because the patient will die if the blockage is not fixed. I've only seen it one other time in 30 years of practice. It's hard to identify because they spit up their milk, but a lot of babies do that."
Having no problems with the first two children, the Loehmans were unsure what to do or think.
"I was terrified I was going to lose him," Angela says. "I just couldn't fathom the idea of losing my baby."
Caleb was in the hospital for three weeks following the procedure. He was placed on an IV for the first week and a pic line for the duration of the stay. A feeding tube bypassed the surgery site and dripped one milliliter of fluid an hour into his stomach. A separate tube was inserted to drain the fluid from his stomach. It was a slow process, but he recovered well from the surgery and Angela was able to start bottle feeding him on a normal schedule.
"Just seeing him not being able to keep food down was scary," Michael says. "He was so young and little. But, we were happy with the results of the surgery. I never would have thought they could operate on someone that tiny."
"I missed that bonding time with him since I wasn't able to feed him," Angela says. "I could hold him, but there were wires all over him. I couldn't breastfeed him."
At his one-month follow-up, everything looked great and the surgeon said Caleb shouldn't have any more problems with his stomach. Caleb was progressing and the Loehmans rejoiced every time they saw his weight increase. They joked about him never missing a meal and said he was making up for lost time.
But the week before Christmas, the Lohemans found themselves in the all too familiar environment of the hospital. Caleb, now three months old, and his older brother Ethan had contracted Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) from day care. He was admitted to the hospital the week before Christmas.
"It was more frustrating than anything—we had gotten back on track, he was doing good and gaining weight, I had gone back to work, and then we got hit with him being sick again," Angela recalls. "I had to miss work, but luckily my boss really understood. We and our family took turns watching him."
Caleb required high-dose oxygen therapy with a VapoTherm machine to help treat his RSV. High-pressure oxygen is blown into the lungs to help recovery.
"If Children's Miracle Network had not provided the VapoTherm, Caleb may not have been able to receive treatment for his RSV at Shannon," Dr. Schultz says. "He was getting to the point where he was having trouble breathing on his own. The VapoTherm allowed him to get enough oxygen and start fighting off the infection. The other option is the ventilator, which requires intubation and the machines breathes for you. This would have been a lot more serious and dangerous for Caleb."
Since his bout with RSV, Caleb has experienced wheezing. This prompted Dr. Schultz to order another screening for cystic fibrosis. He had one screening as a newborn and another during his time at Cook that came back inconclusive. The sweat testing method is a non-invasive test that measures the chloride levels in a sample of sweat. Higher chloride levels are usually associated with cystic fibrosis. The testing machine was provided to Shannon by Children's Miracle Network.
Caleb is back on track again and is a glowing, healthy baby boy. His parents credit Dr. Schultz for his thoroughness, timeliness and concern when it came to their son's health. They are also grateful to all of the nursing and medical staff that took care of them during Caleb's time in the hospital.
"It's scary enough to have a sick child, and it makes it worse when you have to go out of town," Angela says. "So, it's really nice the Children's Miracle Network is able to provide equipment that helps not only treat children, but it allows them to stay home. If the sweat test machine would not have been available here, we would have had to travel out of town for an hour-and-a-half procedure. That entails taking off of work, figuring out what to do with our other kids, spending money on gas, etc. It's just so nice to have those capabilities in your hometown."