Featured Cherub of The Week: Milton Hammer

Featured cherub of the week is Milton Hammer. Milton is the son of Mark and Rikke Hammer. Rikke is our Denmark CDH International Ambassador. This is what Rikke had to share about her son:

“Milton was born with congenital diaphragmatic hernia. His intestines, stomach, liver and spleen had all wandered up into the chest cavity through the hole in the diaphragm and lay around the lungs and heart. His lungs did not had space to develop in utero – and certainly no room to unfold as he had to take his first breath. One lung was the size of a walnut, the other around 75% of a normal baby lung. We knew since the scan at week 20, but we had no idea what this birth defect really mend. Doctors said he had 80% survival chance, but after he was born, they adjusted the number to only 10%. 

Two crises where to be attended, we were told, one when he was born and the other involving surgery. But that was unfortunately far from the reality. The fact was, we did not understand how severe this was – maybe we were naive. Denying, I guess.  

He was born on 22 February 2013 at 20.21 pm., weighing 4,200 g, 53 cm long – we think. There was no time to waste getting him measured, because he immediately received CPR. They pulled him out, and started working on saving his life. He was blue almost black and the room was as busy as the metro during rush hour, yet so awfully quiet – no sound. No cry. He was not breathing. There was only a very slow faint heartbeat. There was no room for the lungs to unfold because the intestines, stomach, liver and spleen took up all the space. The heart was lacking oxygen and was slowly stopping. The doctors, they were many, had to call for backup, and finally managed to get the respirator intubated. It was a challenge because the heart was situated in the wrong side of the body, pushed to the center by the liver – and thus in the way for the tube to go in. 
We never got a glance of him. Never heard him cry, and of cause never held him. There was absolutely no time. 

They ran down the hall with him and all the machines, just as you see on television in series like “E.R”, shouting at people in the hallway to move.  
He fought for his life all night, receiving 100 % assistance – no way to boost him a little extra, if he had needed it. By miracle and will power he pulled through the night. 

The next day staff asked if we intended to get him an emergency baptism. They said it would be more comfortable than if it would to be done in haste, if suddenly things got worse. We said that it would fit us well to baptize him on Sunday, a normal day for this ritual (he was born Friday). But the staff said that it was probably best to baptize him immediately. 

He was the only child who was baptized while we were admitted to intensive care neonatal. But his grandparents were present, and the ceremony was beautiful yet so very sad. Later staff came with imprints of his feet and a small lock of his hair – in memory. No other children had their footprint taken. 

The lungs still could not get enough oxygen around his body even though he was on full life support. They were underdeveloped and it stressed his entire circuit. The heart was struggling and he was pumped with medication. 13 different pumps were running. The ventilator (oscillator) kept us awake day and night, alarms went off all the time and we would taste the ice cold fear in our mouths. We started in a 3 bedded room – we quickly got the room for ourselves. Milton’s equipment filled the whole room. We even got to sleep next to him in the room, because there would be no time for us to come, if he would crash. He was given 100% oxygen and NO-gas, and we could not even touch him gently or speak in a normal way, if we did his blood pressure would drop. The brain was too busy maintaining the basic functions that a single touch or sound was too much for him to cope. We needed a miracle. 

We held on for hour after hour. Had he not come around – just a little, they said – within the next hour, ECMO was next. He got better. Just enough. It was as he had sensed the urgency and gave it a little extra to get better. 
One cannot operate on a child, who is not stable. And it was a long wait. But slowly Milton was increasingly stable and he could undergo surgery after 10 days. 

We filled the whole elevator to go to the surgery floor. Two doctors, a physician, two nurses, Mark and I and three wagons with medical equipment. 

We went to try to get something to eat while he was in surgery, but we couldn’t. We just sat quietly looking at each other, not saying anything. A father and his daughter entered the café, they laughed while reading a book. I cried quietly and hid behind my napkin. 

Finally we got the news. Milton did make it through surgery. But he was still on a ventilator and he was very poor still. There had been difficulties fitting the intestines back into place, but after cutting a small section off, they got it all in.  

Slowly, weeks after the surgery things looked better. And after being the first for rounds every morning, we finally got down to number two – meaning that another baby was more critical than ours. We celebrated with cookies from the supermarket. Milton slowly became more and more stable. 

After 4 weeks, they woke him from the coma. He grabbed our fingers for the first time. He opened his eyes for the first time 4,5 weeks old. After 6 weeks, we held him in our arms for the first time with tubes still connected to him – for 10 minutes, then he had to go back, it was too much for him to take in. It was the most amazing 10 minutes in all our lives. 

Now we have the most wonderful boy any one can have. No feeding issues but his stomach does act up from time to time. Some breathing issues still lingers on and we need to have oxygen and antibiotics at home as a standby during colds and flues. He still needs a nap in the middle of the day because of his small lungs, but he is very intelligent and ahead of his peers. He starts school this summer and we are so proud of our little man.  

He lives. He’s wonderful. We are so very, very blessed. We don’t just have a boy – we have a miracle.” 

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