Featured Cherub of The Week: Matthew Robert Joseph Doellman

Featured cherub of the week is angel cherub Matthew Robert Joseph Doellman. Matthew is the son of our IL Ambassador, Mindy Doellman. Mindy had this to share about her son:

“Our son Matthew Robert Joseph Doellman was diagnosed in utero at about 7 months gestation with a left congenital diaphragmatic hernia.  At the time of diagnosis, it was a minor hernia.  I was asked if I wanted to abort him and start over as his chances of a live birth were small.  Being a Roman Catholic, I do not believe in abortion, I chose his life. 

During the next 2-3 months, the hernia became more pronounced on every ultrasound.  Approximately 2 weeks before my due date of Jan 5th (1992) I started having strong Braxton hicks contractions. At the time we were active duty Navy stationed at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, FL.  We went to ER and they were concerned that the contractions were not strong but were regular.  I was transported to Gainesville as they were the closest area with an ECMO machine just in case Matthew was born. 

I was sent home as the contractions gradually stopped.  I was put on bed rest the remainder or my pregnancy.  On December 25, 1991, I started having actual contractions and we went to the ER and I was told the ECMO machine in Gainesville was not available and the physician there assured us they could handle our son if he was born.  We let them know that we would prefer an open ECMO bed as a precaution.  I was then life-flighted to Augusta, GA to Augusta University Medical Center. 

Approximately 2-3pm I arrived, and several tests were done.  The doctor did numerous ultrasounds and noted the baby was breech.  They asked me if I would prefer a normal birth or a C-Section.  I told him I wanted everything as easy for this baby as possible and the less stress he has on him from birth the better.  I was taken in for C-Section while my husband was planning for our 3-year-old daughter and driving to Augusta.   

Matthew Robert Joseph Doellman was born Christmas Day and yelled one good time to let me know he was here and then things took a turn for the worse.  During this yell, he managed a pneumothorax aka punctured a hole in his lung.  Things were touch and go for about 30 minutes before they got him stabilized.  I was taken to my room and shortly after my husband arrived.  I gave thanks to God above that our son was born alive after being told he probably would not be. 

Around 12-1am on the 26th, Dr Chantrapa Bunyapen (a neonatologist) came in to state that unless they put our son on ECMO, he would not survive.  He was on ECMO for about 4-6 days and they could not get him weaned off so surgery to repair the hernia was done while he was on ECMO.  He remained on ECMO for about another week and was finally weaned off. 

We were informed that most of his intestines had moved up into his chest cavity as well as his stomach.  As a result, his left lung was almost non-existent.  During the next few weeks he was weaned off his sedation and allowed to wake up and see everyone around him.  He was still on a ventilator but was coming down to room air (22%) for oxygen, but the peep pressure or pressure needed to keep his lungs open was not too good. 

At about a month to 6 weeks old his tube feedings were started and he was moved to his own room with a crib.  He did very well with his tube feedings.  Mommy got to give him his first bath!  There were many roller coaster rides with his condition, but I would do it all again if I had to and my husband feels the same way.  Our daughter Danielle who is now 30 and is 3 years older than Matthew still has memories of visiting him in the nursery.  Around the first of March 1992 Matthew was experiencing a lot of edema, mainly in his upper chest and head.  One night I commented to the nurse that I thought his blood pressure and pulse was high to which he stated he is probably in pain and would give him something to make him comfortable.   

The edema continued off and on for the next week and then Matthew coded.  Apparently, he was experiencing what is called “Vena Cava Syndrome” which is where the vena cava is pinched off because his lungs were very similar to someone with COPD.  We lost our son Matthew on March 11, 1992. 

We flew our son to our home town of Quincy, IL, and had him buried next to his grandpa Bob.  As a direct result of what we experienced health wise with our son, I went to nursing school and graduated with my bachelor’s and then went back and got my Master’s in Nursing.  As much as I would love working in a NICU I am not sure emotionally I could handle it.   

Our hope is with reading our story, others in the same situation will see they are not alone in this battle. My goal is to be as available for any parent who is needing a shoulder to cry on, to vent their frustrations to, or to just say prayers with.” 

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