On a beautiful summer evening, 2-year-old Kimberly raced up the steps of her favorite playground near her home in Denver carrying her beloved stuffed animal, a dog named Pinky.
The energetic little girl with dark hair and a sparkle in her eyes giggled as she glided down the slide, over and over again. “More!” she gleefully yelled to her mom, Rulene, and dad, Luke.
You would never know it looking at the spunky toddler today, but Kimberly was born at Children’s Hospital Colorado with her intestines outside of her body.
A scary diagnosis
Several months into Rulene’s pregnancy with her first child, a blood test and ultrasound revealed that something was wrong.
Her baby girl’s intestines were poking through a hole in the baby’s abdomen, a serious birth defect known as gastroschisis that affects about one in 2,000 babies born in the United States.
Because of these complications, Rulene’s doctor recommended she transfer her care to the Colorado Institute for Maternal and Fetal Health, based at Children’s Colorado.
“I was scared, because I hadn’t heard of gastrochisis before, and when I did more research, it made me even more afraid,” said Rulene. But the doctors at Children’s Colorado allayed her fears during her frequent appointments.
“Going to each ultrasound, my doctors made me feel more positive and reassured me,” she added.
Christmas eve delivery
As Rulene’s delivery date approached, her team of caregivers at Children’s Colorado had a meeting with everyone involved in her care, so they were prepared for her daughter’s birth and could answer all of Rulene’s questions.
On Christmas Eve, doctors induced Rulene, and little Kimberly made her appearance into the world. When doctors saw that she only had a small portion of her intestines outside of her body, they opted not to perform surgery, but instead, gently reinserted her intestines back into her stomach and used her umbilical cord and a bandage to cover the area.
Kimberly spent nearly two months in the NICU to allow her digestive system to heal before she could go home.
Rulene said that the hardest part of having Kimberly in the NICU was that her daughter had several tubes that ran from her nose to her stomach for more than a month. The tubes were clearly uncomfortable and made Kimberly cry a lot. “We had to calm her down with a pacifier or sugar water,” said Rulene, “but the nurses were so helpful.”
Kimberly’s bright spirit and positive energy kept Rulene going, along with the support of the doctors, nurses and caregivers that surrounded her.
“We were very thankful to have the experts at Children’s Colorado who knew exactly how to treat these problems in babies,” said Rulene. “In the hospital, there was someone always coming by to talk to me, to help with anything. We were very blessed.”