When Melissa and Scott of Selinsgrove were expecting their third child, they had no reason to anticipate any problems. But newborn Tanner would need intensive care, blood transfusions, breathing help from a ventilator, months of therapy and even lollipops to bring him to health.
Around the time of delivery, roughly half of Tanner’s blood was released into his mother’s circulation. His organs – including his brain – were oxygen-starved. He was born with a heartbeat but not breathing. It was just after Christmas 2005, and as Life Flight prepared to take Tanner to Geisinger’s Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville, Melissa and Scott feared that their son would never even meet his two sisters, McKenzie and Alexis.
“With this being my third child, you wouldn’t think that anything bad is going to happen,” Melissa says.
In the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), doctors performed blood transfusions to replace the blood that had been lost. Melissa and Scott were at the side of his crib every day, hoping for any improvement, fearing what lifelong problems their son might be facing.
“Tanner suffered a stroke from the lack of blood, and corresponding lack of oxygen when he was born,” explains neonatologist Edward Everett, D.O. “And as with any stroke, there can be both short-term and long-term consequences, including a seizure disorder, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, developmental delay, feeding disorders and more.”
He spent weeks in the NICU battling the effects of the blood loss. He was severely anemic. He wasn’t able to breathe on his own. He was having seizures. He couldn’t be fed.
Slowly, little victories were celebrated as Tanner showed signs of progress. But the damage to his brain from the lack of oxygen at birth left him with limited use of his mouth. He was given a feeding tube, and doctors tried to counter what might be permanent damage.
By the end of January, Tanner was home with his family – but he still was unable to eat on his own. The family’s home bustled with therapists, desperately trying to train Tanner to use his mouth.
“We had tons of therapists come in every day of the week,” Melissa recalls. “I was determined and kept telling myself that this baby is going to eat.”
After much therapy and a suggestion from Melissa’s mother about bottle-shaped lollipops, Tanner finally started taking a bottle. His feeding tube was removed shortly after.
Today, Tanner is a healthy and active youngster, one that enjoys playing in the water and digging in the dirt with his toy bulldozers. And he even enjoys eating his vegetables.
Children’s Miracle Network at Geisinger provided funds for much of the NICU equipment that Tanner and many other children across the region have benefitted from, including monitors, ventilators and medication pumps. Donations also provided equipment that allows Life Flight to transfer newborns safely.
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