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When Isabel was born in Denver with esophageal atresia, an unattached esophagus that required surgery, mom Ann thought that would be the last time her daughter would be in hospital. But back in Calgary, during surgery to stretch her esophagus opening when she was six months old, surgeon Dr. Robin Eccles discovered Isabel wasn’t breathing properly and admitted her to the ICU.
It turned out Isabel’s lungs were underdeveloped and soft and her breathing threatened because of it, though it had gone undiagnosed until then. But doctors here had a plan. She was given a tracheostomy and ventilator to keep her lungs open to help her breathe. After spending four months getting stronger in the ICU, she was moved to unit 2. She spent her first birthday on unit 2 and two months later, was finally able to go home – just in time for Christmas.
Isabel and her family have had to learn to adjust to life with a trach and ventilator, a daunting task Ann says was made much easier thanks to the wonderful staff of the Complex Airway Clinic who taught her how to manage her daughter’s condition at home. Isabel must avoid playgrounds and splash parks to avoid risk of infection to her trach, and must be fed with a G-tube because she cannot yet eat by mouth. Yet, despite this, Isabel is a happy, healthy toddler who doesn’t let having a trach and ventilator from having fun. As she plays around her house, she pushes her portable ventilator around in her toy shopping cart! J She will have her ventilator for another year or so.
Isabel’s family is grateful for the care they received at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and the way the caregivers and other staff made them feel comforted during their long hospital stay, other families on the unit and nurses who brought Isabel gifts on her birthday.