Every 4 1/2 minutes, a baby is born with a birth defect.
From March of Dimes…
“If your baby is born with a birth defect or other health condition, he may need special care at birth and later in life.
You may be worried and have lots of questions. It’s OK to feel this way.
Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. Birth defects can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops or how the body works”
DEFECT is such an ugly word: a shortcoming, an imperfection, a deficiency.
A congenital disorder.
In other words, NOT perfect.
I failed as a mom, even before my baby was born.
Or at least that’s how I felt when I discovered that my son suffered from a Meckel’s diverticulum.
I didn’t learn this when I was pregnant during a regular office visit or ultrasound; he was thirty-three years-old and being rolled into emergency surgery all the way across the country when the surgeon revealed the reason why my son was writhing in such horrific pain that morphine couldn’t dull and why his belly was distended.
At first they thought it was appendicitis, but it wasn’t.
It was far worse and if we had not had such an amazing surgeon; there’s a strong possibility that he would not be here now, having his own baby boy.
Apparently he had been born with Meckel’s diverticulum, a true congenital diverticulum, which is a slight bulge in the small intestine present at birth and a vestigial remnant of the omphalomesenteric duct (also called the vitelline duct or yolk stalk).
Meckel’s diverticulum is the most common congenital abnormality of the small intestine; it is caused by an incomplete obliteration of the vitelline duct (ie, omphalomesenteric duct). Although originally described by Fabricius Hildanus in 1598, it is named after Johann Friedrich Meckel, who established its embryonic origin in 1809.
In 1981, there was nothing like the sort of sophisticated diagnostic tools we have today. I think I had a doppler to hear the heartbeat and that’s it. There was no need to subject me or my baby to amniocentesis and I was all about natural and organic, so the less invasive, the better.
Even now, despite being one of the most common congenital anomalies of the gastrointestinal tract, Meckel diverticulum has rarely been diagnosed in utero, although there is the potential to see it if it exists at the end of the third trimester.
What I learned from the doctors is that it either causes no problem at all or it causes a problem when the child is about two years old, or it causes the kind of complications my son endured as an adult, which can be life threatening.
Which it was.
If this condition is left untreated, it leads to strangulation and ischemic necrosis of the wall of the bowel loop.
- Most patients with intestinal obstruction present with abdominal pain, bilious vomiting, abdominal tenderness, distention, and hyperactive bowel sounds upon examination.
- Patients may develop a palpable abdominal mass.
From the moment my DIL brought my son to the emergency room and called us at 3 a.m., the whirlwind that brought me and tugboat man rushing from SoCal to the east coast — his intestines were dying and had become so necrotic that two feet (24 inches!) of small intestine would be resected, along with the removal of the inflamed and burst Meckel’s diverticulum, his appendix, eight inches of ascending colon, and various other bits and pieces that were also affected and infected.
I can’t even describe the fear and guilt that washed over me in waves while I didn’t leave his side for the two weeks he was in the hospital.
Why didn’t I know?
What could I have done to have prevented it?
How could I be such a horrible mother?
How come my baby wasn’t perfect?
What if…he didn’t survive?
I know those are the kind of irrational thoughts that have no basis in reality, but a mother’s heart is so fierce, I would have died for him.
And with him.
I’m so grateful to the surgeon and the great nursing care at Rhode Island Hospital; because of them, my Angel Boy is here today.
Here’s the complete story of that almost tragedy on my other blog, Enchanted Seashells, Confessions of a Tugboat Captain’s Wife:
POSTS ABOUT THE SURGERY:
1. That Dreaded Call at 3:00 A.M.
2. Time To Exhale
3. Full Circle From Hell to Happiness
4. What Does a Cosmo, the Trauma, Unit, and Mother’s Day Have in Common