After five years in Texas, my medical practice brought me to Fayetteville, Georgia. Laura was always a tiny little thing, still not even twenty pounds by now, and her growth rate was so slow. I think it was probably one of the effects of the drug exposure, but there was no one to ask. No one else knew even nearly as much as Stacy and I already did about her condition.
Despite having little purposeful use of her arms and legs, she did have strong muscular posturing, especially when she was eating. She started to have more problems with feeding. By now she had so much strength in extension that it was all Stacy could do to hold her, much less feed her, so I started feeding her all of her meals.
Besides breakfast and supper, I would come home at lunch every day between the morning and afternoon clinic patient loads to feed her. She would spit and choke and extend so forcibly that our walls had baby food stains. Stacy and I knew that she probably soon would not be able to eat by mouth any more. I contacted Dr. Bleacher a friend and colleague of mine at Scottish Rite who is a Pediatric surgeon. He agreed that it was time to place a feeding button in her stomach.
It was to be a simple procedure, but for Laura it was to be a three day hospital stay. He would place the abdominal button in surgery, then they would begin tube feedings to make sure everything was going well. She would go home never to eat by mouth again. She went into surgery on a Thursday, May 10 of 2001.
On Sunday, Mother’s Day, Stacy had begun the long drive home to get us more clothes not realizing that Dr. Bleacher had just ordered a stat abdominal x-ray. The films revealed that Laura’s very strong extensions had pulled the internal bulb of the feeding button out of the stomach wall. Her tube feedings were instead going into her abdomen causing a life-threatening peritonitis.
They took Laura from my arm’s and back to surgery then and there. I didn’t know if that was the last time I would see Laura. Thankfully, she made it through the surgery.
She spent the next thirty days in the PICU. Her abdomen was infected with bacteria and fungus. Three surgeries later, the infection was gone, the ventricular shunt drain relocated to her heart, and a new abdominal feeding button was in place.
Because I was a Pediatrician and Stacy a nurse, they actually discharged her directly from the PICU to Laura’s special van for the drive home.