During a 26-week ultrasound, Lori’s doctor told her, “We need a further look.” It was during that further look that her unborn son, Garisen, was diagnosed with left congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), a serious condition where a hole in the diaphragm allows the abdominal organs to move into the chest- resulting in the lungs not developing normally.
“I had never heard of CDH before that day. Everything happened so fast. I was in complete shock to realize how sick he was and that no one could reassure me that he’d be okay. After learning the news and understanding the extent of his problems, I just broke down,” recalls Lori.
Before her delivery, Lori met with Marleta Reynolds, MD, Chief of Pediatric Surgery at Lurie Children’s, to discuss the surgery and what would happen after Garisen was born. Lori says, “I chose to have him transferred to Children’s Memorial (now Lurie Children’s) in the event that he would need ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation). I knew that I wanted my son to be cared for at Children’s Memorial because my brother was also a patient. He always received excellent care and I knew Garisen would as well. I didn’t have to think twice.”
Lori delivered Garisen at 38 weeks. He was immediately intubated and transferred to Children’s Memorial and admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. His situation was so dire that Lori was unable to hold her newborn son until almost a week later. “It was very traumatic for me to finally have this beautiful child, that I had been dreaming about all of my life, whisked away and taken to another hospital. I felt so helpless and heartbroken because I couldn’t be with him. I was stuck at a hospital by myself, while my newborn child was transported by ambulance to Children’s. What helped me through this extremely difficult time was a lot of prayers and knowing that he was great hands,” says Lori. “The nurses were great and encouraged me to call as much as I needed to in order to make sure that all of my questions were answered. They never made me feel like I was a burden to them. They were my lifeline to Garisen and I appreciated the fact that they gave me as much information as I wanted to know.”
Anthony Chin, MD, Pediatric Surgery, performed Garisen’s surgery just three days after he was born- closing the hole in his diaphragm with Garisen’s own muscle and pushing his intestines back down into his abdomen. “I know he [Dr. Chin] loves Garisen and looks out for him. I owe him so much. I know he cares about my son.”
After 6 weeks in the hospital, Lori was finally able to bring Garisen home. Lori says, “Dr. Chin saved his life.” In addition to Dr. Chin and his amazing work, Lori thanks two nurses who cared for Garisen when he was in the NICU, Dana Zgonina, RN, and Kaitlin Leahy-Koralik, RN, as well as respiratory therapist, Shannon Keane-Yuhasz. She says, “These women are not only dedicated to the care and well-being of children, but also to the families of the children. They are amazing and I know that Garisen was able to get better not only because of Dr. Chin, but because of their extraordinary care. I am forever grateful to all of them!”
Today, Lori says that Garisen, 5, is a happy, healthy and hilarious little boy. He only visits the hospital once a year for an X-ray and check-up with Dr. Chin. Lori says that he has seen photos of himself when he was in the hospital and they talk openly about what happened and the people who cared for him. “He calls his little scars, ‘angel kisses’ and Dr. Chin, ‘the man who fixed me,’” says Lori.
“I knew this kid was a fighter. He’s my hero. I’m lucky to be his mom. He’s my wish come true!”