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HILLIARD — “They laid Abigail on my belly after she was born, and I could hear her cry. I thought to myself, ‘She’s crying. She’s alive. She’s not dead’,” said young mother Suzannah Howell.
During Suzannah’s 35th-week ultrasound, she and her husband Chase learned their baby would be born with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH). This birth defect meant the baby had a hole in the left side of her diaphragm, so her bowel, spleen and kidney were in her chest, pushing her heart to the right side, compressing her left lung.
Suzannah traveled to Shand’s Hospital for Children at UF (nearly a two-hour commute) once a week for a one-hour ultrasound and EKG until delivery day. On Nov. 21, 2011, the doctors induced labor and gave Suzannah steroids to strengthen the baby’s lungs. After two pushes, baby Abigail was born and quickly taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where she was intubated.
Two days later, Abigail was stable for surgery to reorganize her organs and cover the hole in her diaphragm. The surgery was performed by world-renowned CDH specialist and Shands pediatrics’ surgeon Dr. David Kays.
The family spoke highly of Kays and his team at Shands. “I think it’s great what they do at Shands. Dr. Kays is amazing,” Suzannah said. She also mentioned that Kays was available anytime the family needed him. “He will respond to a call or e-mail even when he’s on vacation. That’s what kind of person he is and is what makes him so successful.”
Chase and Suzannah were fortunate to be close to Shands and to have heard of Kays. The survival rate of CDH babies in his care is 92 percent compared to the national survival rater of 50-60 percent. “I’ve read where many doctors at other hospitals will tell mothers expecting CDH babies to abort. Dr. Kays gives every child a chance. He doesn’t give up on any of them,” Suzannah said.
It is stories like the Howells' that make folks realize every child deserves a fighting chance, but not all are given one. Luckily, Shands Hospital for Children at UF and the Children’s Miracle Network are able to provide that fighting chance.
On Sept. 20, the 18th Annual Tommy Usher Log-A-Load for Kids Golf Classic, held at the Chiefland Golf & Country Club, will raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network.
These funds will be directly used by Shands Hospital for Children at UF.
Teams, sponsorships and donations are welcomed. Contact Zak Seymour at 386-462-4201 or ZSeymour@FarmCreditFL.com for more information and to register.