It’s back-to-school season again – a fresh start for students of all ages. One recent event, however, reminded me of how many babies get their very first start in life here at Pennsylvania Hospital. On May 16th, this past spring, Janelle van Leusdan, who now lives in Wheaton, IL, stopped by Pennsylvania Hospital with her son Job, the oldest of her four children, to snap some photos. With Job still in his graduation cap and gown and clutching his diploma, it was obvious they were not visiting the hospitals as tourists. They were here for something more. They were coming back to – for Job – where it all began.
Twenty-four years ago, on March 16, 1989, Janelle was 30 weeks pregnant when she was transferred to PAH from Reading Hospital. She didn’t have enough fluid for her son to grow in utero, and his heart rate was dropping. “My obstetrician told me that if my son had any chance to survive it would be at Pennsylvania Hospital,” recalled Janelle. Like something out of a movie, the next thing Janelle knew, she was being whisked away to PAH, via ambulance, her mother and sister trailing behind by car, and her husband on a plane flying home from a family wedding in Europe.
“As soon as we arrived at the hospital, the staff was ready and waiting for us. Everything happened so fast,” said Janelle. After a series of tests, doctors had to prepare Janelle for what she and little Job were up against: he had only a ten percent chance of survival, and if he lived, the tiny baby, Job, faced a 90 percent chance suffering from severe mental retardation and additional abnormalities. It looked as if Job didn’t have developed kidneys, and his heart rate still hadn’t stabilized. Late on the night of March 17, Janelle was prepped for an emergency cesarean section. “As they were taking me for my spinal, my c-section was suddenly postponed. My case was so risky, my doctor wanted to be sure my husband saw me before going into the OR. He arrived in the middle of night and come early the morning of March 18th, I had my c-section.”
Job van Leusden was born at a mere one pound eight ounces, and 13 inches long. “The first thing he did was pee when he was born so we were all thrilled to know he had kidneys!” said Janelle. “I will never forget the first time we met with the doctors after Job’s birth. They said it would be a huge roller coaster ride, and they were right.”
Job was so tiny and frail and attached to so many tubes and lines Janelle couldn’t hold him for the whole first month of his life. By the time he was able to be held, he still only weighed in at two pounds, two ounces. Once Job hit the three pound milestone, he was transferred to the “big boy nursery” in PAH’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). But then little Job suffered a set-back: He developed a hernia and was transferred to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for surgery. After one week at CHOP, he was back in the PAH NICU, where he continued to receive specialize care until he was finally able to go home four months after his birth in July of 1989.
Shown here is Janelle when she was finally able to hold Job over a month after his birth.
“My son wasn’t supposed to make it, and if he did, all odds were surely against him,” said Janelle. “Due to the experienced doctors and staff at Pennsylvania Hospital, my healthy 24-year-old son graduated from Temple University on May 16th this year with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Thank you Pennsylvania Hospital for my precious gift!”
2013 PAH ICN Reunion: “Never underestimate the size of miracles.”
Just as Pennsylvania Hospital (PAH) is known as our nation’s first Hospital founded in 1751, it’s also clearly known for “birthin’ babies.” In fact, the hospital delivers the largest number of babies per year within the City of Philadelphia, and has been at the forefront of neonatal services since the mid 1950's. As a result of this specialty reputation, approximately 40 percent of the infants born at PAH are from high-risk pregnancies and about half of them require advanced neonatal care.
Thankfully, the PAH neonatal team is known for its successful care of extremely small infants – some weighing less than 500 grams, or just one pound. According to data from an international comparative database (Vermont/Oxford Neonatal Network), PAH ranks consistently among the best centers in the US for outcomes of preterm infants.
This fall, there will be a celebration of some of “tiny” patient success stories – like Janelle and Job’s – to come out of PAH. On Saturday, October 5th, families, physicians, nursing staff, donors, sponsors and many others who have journeyed through Pennsylvania Hospital’s Intensive Care Nursery will reunite for a free, fun-filled day to honor the hospital’s Intensive Care Nursery graduates.
For more information please visit: http://www.pennmedicine.org/ICNReunion.