Kid, With Life-Threatening Birth Defect, Survives And Thrives

Kid, With Life-Threatening Birth Defect, Survives And Thrives

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Bryson, the miracle baby Bryson, the miracle baby
CDH happens when the diaphragm does not close properly CDH happens when the diaphragm does not close properly
PHILADELPHIA -

Felecia Woodruff and her husband Jason have a daughter Hayden, who's 3 years old and a son Bryson. They call Bryson their miracle baby. Bryson wasn't expected to make it to his first birthday

When Felecia was 20 weeks pregnant, she and Jason went to their 20 week ultrasound, full of anticipation.

"We were excited to find out if we were having a boy or a girl[.] During the ultrasound they were taking a long time and focusing along his chest. They brought us into a different room and told us that he had Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia," recalls Felecia Woodruff.

Better known as CDH, it's a life threatening birth defect that Felecia had never heard of.

"At first I kind of didn't believe it until I started doing more and more research and found out how bad it was," says Woodruff.

CDH isn't rare it, in fact, it occurs in 1 of every 2500 births. Somewhere in the world, a baby is born with CDH every 10 minutes. It's as common as Spina Bifida and Cystic Fibrosis.

"It's a problem that happens before the baby is born, very early in gestation. The diaphragm doesn't close and the problem has to do with the consequences of having the things that are in the abdomen go up in the chest [especially] the consequences on lung development. The lungs are typically small and they can be so small they can be incompatible with life," says Dr. Holly Hedrick.

Dr. Holly Hedrick is an attending surgeon at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Her clinical specialty is treating children with CDH. 50 percent of babies born with CDH do not survive, but at CHOP, the survival rate is 70 percent.

"Any diagnosis that says 30 percent of kids might not make it is pretty devastating," says Dr. Hedrick, "Bryson was in the severe category, his liver had actually moved up into his chest, which makes the lung really small."

The same day he was born, Bryson was put on an ECMO machine for 21 days.

ECMO, as Dr. Hedrick describes, "is like a heart lung bypass so his lungs could rest and wait for him to be stronger."

"We always kept the attitude where we'll be OK, we're gonna make it through this. But it really started to hit home and sink in once we actually went on ECMO. That was when, for me anyway, the red flags went up and said this is serious," recalls Jason Woodruff, Bryson's father.

Confronted with a diagnosis that they had never heard of was hard enough, but Jason and Felecia had to balance their jobs with constant visits to the hospital. Felecia is an office manager for a lawn care company and Jason is a logistics supervisor.

They also had to explain all of this to Hayden, their daughter.

"It was really hard considering I had her and she was two at the time, so she didn't really understand it," says Felecia Woodruff.

"That was definitely one of the hardest things, her not seeing him come home with us," says Jason Woodruff.

Bryson is a fighter and, at just 32 days old, the little guy had his CDH repair surgery.

"It takes a couple of hours. All the things that are up in the chest need to be brought down and then we need to close that hole. In his case we needed to use a patch, a pretty big patch," says Dr. Hedrick.

Three days later, Felecia got to hold Bryson for the first time. Bryson kept fighting and after 90 days in the Neonatal ICU, Bryson finally went home.

He has since started to thrive and, last month, celebrated his first birthday.

His family threw quite the party to celebrate a milestone they thought might never come.

"We just always had hope," says Jason.

"He's quite a miraculous story," says Dr. Hedrick.

What's next for Bryson?

"We're a big hockey family, so he'll be playing ….chess," quips Jason.

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