Kaylyn Gettinger was relieved to lean on a reliable support system during a time of uncertainty. Shortly after the COVID-19 lockdown began in spring 2020, she became pregnant with her second child.
To ease her anxieties, Kaylyn turned to Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns — the hospital that saved her own life 30 years ago. Born four months early and weighing only 2 pounds, 5 ounces, she was admitted to Sharp Mary Birch’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
“A bag of flour weighed more than her — she was so tiny,” says Jeanne Kearney, Kaylyn’s mother. “I was terrified when I was told that she might not make it through the night. But the nurses and doctors said they’d try their best to save her. They ultimately turned a horrific experience into a positive one.”
Like mother, like son
Familiar with the story of her birth, Kaylyn felt confident to deliver her son at Sharp Mary Birch. She would soon find out how important her decision turned out to be.
In November 2020, Hunter was born at 39 weeks, weighing 8 pounds and appearing healthy. However, he only ate once in nearly 48 hours, despite help from lactation consultants in the hospital.
At 2 days old, Hunter stopped eating completely and did not have a bowel movement. After vomiting green bile, he was admitted to the NICU.
Dr. Gerald Gollin, medical director of neonatal surgery at Sharp Mary Birch, decided to perform a barium enema on Hunter, which showed narrowing of the lower part of the colon. Dr. Gollin then obtained a biopsy of the rectum that confirmed that his young patient had Hirschsprung’s disease, a congenital disorder in which nerve cells are missing from a part of the colon.
Dr. Gollin performed a laparoscopic, minimally invasive operation to remove a part of Hunter’s colon that lacked normal nerve cells. The surgery took place at Rady Children’s Hospital, which is connected to Sharp Mary Birch through an inter-hospital passageway.
A day later, Hunter was able to eat and pass stool, to the relief of his parents. He returned to Sharp Mary Birch’s NICU to recover.
Same quality of care, 30 years later
After her delivery, Kaylyn remained at the hospital for three days, while Hunter ended up staying for 10.
“The NICU staff would take our daily 3 am phone calls to let us know how he was doing,” she recalls. “They answered every question, no matter how many times we asked. They made a bad situation bearable.”
Dr. Gollin says he was pleased to help treat Hunter. “He did well after the operation, and I’m glad he is growing and developing the same as any other baby.”
Today, both Kaylyn and Hunter are well, and Hunter completed his last follow-up medical appointment in May.
“Hunter is the happiest baby,” says Kaylyn. “If you look at him, you would never know he had been sick. I am beyond grateful for Sharp Mary Birch. The care team helped care for Hunter, just as they cared for me.”