Molly Gotbeter giggles impishly as she accepts a sugar cookie and frosting from a nurse. She’s sitting patiently on an exam table waiting to see one of her favorite people in the world — Benjamin Warf, MD, director of Neonatal and Congenital Anomaly Neurosurgery at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Noah Hamm has escaped death more times than his mother Danielle can count. And he’s only 3.
Since Noah was born there have been three constants in his life: Noah’s knack for near misses, his family and a neonatologist/pulmonologist who’s always there with the right care for Noah … and the right words for his family.
“I tell Larry [Dr. Larry Rhein] he’s our George Bailey,” says Noah’s mom Danielle.
Larry gave me hope. Even when things were bad, I always felt better when Larry was there.
Noah was a 29-week twin when Danielle’s water broke prematurely. “The only condition I thought I had to worry about after having a STAT C-section was prematurity,” she recalls.
Six hours after Noah and his sister Dakotah were born at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, specialists told Danielle and her husband Brendan their newborn son needed surgery for esophageal atresia, a gap in his esophagus, and tracheoesophageal fistula, an abnormal connection between his esophagus and trachea.
Nurses brought Noah to Danielle to let her hold her son before transferring him to Boston Children’s Hospital. “They weren’t sure he’d make it through the first night,” says Danielle.
But Noah did make it through the night and through his first surgery, when Dr. Terry Buchmiller, a surgeon at Boston Children’s, repaired Noah’s tracheaesophageal fistula and placed a G-tube to deliver nutrition directly to Noah’s stomach.
A few days after Noah’s first surgery, he was was diagnosed with patent ductus arteriosus; the path between his pulmonary and aortic valves did not close after birth as it should have.
Two weeks later, Danielle could see that Noah didn’t look quite right. She grabbed Dr. Anne Hansen, medical director of the Boston Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and doctors discovered the hole in Noah’s heart had blown open. He needed emergency heart surgery.
Rhein made his first appearance in Noah’s life that night. …