Stories about: Growth and Nutrition Program

Wendy and Abby: Learning how to eat after premature birth

Abby and Wendy, who were born premature: Abby smiles with a piece of cheese in her hand. Wendy sits on the floor.
Abby (left) develops a taste for cheese. Wendy (right) contemplates crawling.
[PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ELLIOTT FAMILY]

The evening Tiffany and Richard Elliott’s twins were born, a group of clinicians sat down to tell them their babies might not make it. Born at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in October 2017, the newborns were almost three months premature. Each weighed less than 2 pounds and had not developed in critical ways. In the best-case scenario, Wendy, who was born first, and Abby, born four minutes later, would not breathe on their own at least until their original due date in January.

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Our patients’ stories: treating Sean’s feeding difficulties

Dan’s son Sean was born prematurely, with a long list of medical concerns. Because Sean was so fragile at birth he was unable to feed himself during infancy, which led to feeding problems as a toddler. Here, Dan describes the hurdles he and his family faced during Sean’s younger years, and the important role Boston Children’s Hospital’s Growth and Nutrition Program played in helping Sean eat solid foods.

By Dan Francis

Sean as a baby, with his feeding tube

For the first five months of my wife Jean’s pregnancy, things were going smoothly. But at the 20-week mark a routine ultrasound showed that our soon-to-be born son Sean was small for his gestational age and there was a low amount of amniotic fluid surrounding him in the womb. Jean was told to stay home from work and get as much bed rest as possible. Five weeks later another routine check-up showed that the bed rest hadn’t been enough; her blood pressure was now elevated (called preeclampsia) and could potentially hurt the baby. That’s when everything got serious.

We spent the next three weeks in the hospital while doctors and nurses monitored Jean and the baby. Doctors determined that a complication with the placenta was restricting the baby’s nutrients and he was only receiving about half of what he needed. Based on the discovery it was decided that the baby’s only chance for survival would happen outside the womb. A C-section was scheduled, and though he came into the world early, we were delighted to meet Sean.

Because he was premature and very small, Sean was born with several health problems. His lungs, heart and digestive system were all in danger of developing serious complications, but despite it all, Sean held on. It was amazing. He could almost fit in the palm of my hand, and still he had a fight in him that’s stronger than you see in most adults.

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