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Before he was born, ultrasounds revealed baby Israel had duodenal atresia (his small intestine was not properly connected) and kidney abnormalities. He was delivered in an emergency C-section, fighting for his life. He was put on a breathing tube, before his parents even heard him cry, and moved to the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Geraldin and Miguel learned Israel had a twisted bowel (a condition known as midgut volvulus) and that parts of his intestine tissue had died.
Israel had surgery so specialists could see the state of his intestine. Unfortunately nearly the entire intestine was already dead. In a second surgery, specialists removed all but 22 cm of Israel’s small intestine, hoping at least part of this remaining section could become usable. The parents were told their son needed a minimum of 14 cm of working intestine to survive. A third surgery, at one week old, came with devastating news: Only 3 cm was functional. Geraldin remembers the doctor’s face, filled with sorrow. She and Miguel were in agony, knowing they could lose their son at any time. Despite the risk, they opted to remove the breathing tube so they could at least hear his cry. He began wailing, which Geraldin says was “the best feeling ever.”
Israel continued to breathe on his own. Eventually he was moved from the NICU to Unit 2, where the charge nurse told Geraldin she’d heard of a baby named Israel but didn’t know whether he’d ever make it to her unit. In order to stimulate the bowel, which had never worked, breast milk would have to be introduced millilitre by millilitre along with TPN, a nutrient rich cocktail administered intravenously that would augment his tiny feeds and be his main source of nutrition. He was still fighting, so the team decided to do another surgery to inspect his failing intestine. In what Geraldin calls a miracle, specialists found 14.5 cm (0.5 cm above the minimum needed) of usable intestine. It was in six pieces that would need attaching, but it would do. The family was overjoyed.
Though Israel has an ostomy bag, he’s at home after spending nine months in hospital. He started TPN with just 5ml of milk, now he drinks 200 ml and is eating solids. The family planned to move back to their home country of Colombia eventually, but having seen the level of care at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, they can’t imagine leaving Calgary.