Three weeks before his July 2020 due date, Connor Loomis made a swift and unexpected entrance at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte. It was just a few days later when first-time parents Kurt and Sara Loomis carefully strapped their newborn in his car seat – homebound for the first time as a party of three. While eager to experience parenthood, the Loomises also had no idea how challenging the first few months would prove.
“Nothing is scarier than not knowing what is going on with your baby,” Sara said.
It all began at Connor’s first routine doctor’s visit, scheduled for the morning after their hospital departure. They were at Novant Health Pediatrics Lake Norman - Huntersville when pediatrician Dr. Vrushali Nitin Patwardhan confirmed that Connor’s spit-up was, in fact, him vomiting up bile. Immediately concerned, Patwardhan made a call and sent the family straight to Novant Health Hemby Children’s Hospital in what Sara recalls “a blur.”
‘I just felt like I was in a cloud’
The team at Hemby Children’s Hospital welcomed the Loomis family and immediately administered an IV to help Connor with dehydration. After a series of X-rays and what “felt like forever,” Sara recalled, Dr. Andrew Schulman revealed that Connor had intestinal malrotation and volvulus – rare birth defects in which the intestines are positioned incorrectly, then twist on themselves and cut off their own blood supply.
At just 3 days old, Connor was admitted to the hospital. Schulman, a pediatric surgery specialist with Pediatric Surgical Associates, told the family they needed to act fast and that hour, Connor went into surgery. The newborn fought through four surgeries that week, including the removal of his appendix and 80% of his small intestine.
“I just felt like I was in a cloud. That I was in this nightmare that I couldn't wake up from,” Kurt said. “It’s very overwhelming, you know. I'll never forget it. It will never ever leave me – that feeling of hopelessness we had.”
The most common symptoms for intestinal malrotation and volvulus include vomiting bile (what happened to Connor), drawing up the legs, bloody stools, abdominal pain, rapid breathing or heart rate, and a swollen abdomen. Kurt and Sara were scared, but they began to find comfort in the team of nurses, physicians and other team members who took care of their son.
“Everyone at Hemby Children’s Hospital treated Connor like he was their own child,” Sara said. “They were always there to help and answer any questions we had as first-time parents of a child who had a 1 in 10,000 condition.”
While intestinal malrotation and volvulus is rare, Sara cautioned that symptoms are often overlooked at the time of delivery since they can be confused with regular spit-up. Her advice for parents is to be aware.
Specialized care for newborns, children and teenagers
From neonatal and pediatric intensive care to a wide variety of pediatric specialties, Hemby Children’s Hospital is compact enough to give patients like Connor individualized attention, yet large enough to attract some of the most skilled experts in the region.
Pediatric subspecialties include:
- Allergy and immunology
- Developmental and behavioral pediatrics
- Infectious disease
- Neonatal intensive care unit
- Pediatric intensive care unit
- Pediatric emergency department
- Sleep medicine
- Sports medicine
- St. Jude affiliate clinic: Hematology/Oncology
Additionally, Hemby Children’s Hospital Emergency Department is the only children’s ER in the Charlotte area staffed by board-certified pediatric emergency medicine physicians. Their experienced staff treats everything from chest pain, broken bones and headaches to abdominal pain (vomiting, diarrhea and appendicitis) or respiratory distress (asthma, pneumonia and bronchiolitis) in kids up to 17.
The Novant Health Children’s Institute is also growing its services. More than 10 pediatric practices will begin their expansion process in 2021, with plans to expand the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU, by 12 additional beds.
‘They will always have a special place in our heart’
After enduring multiple surgeries, Connor was moved to the pediatric intensive care unit, or PICU, where the Loomis family spent four-and-a-half weeks. Not to mention it was in the middle of COVID-19, which prevented family and friends from visiting. Connor’s care team became like family.
“The staff knew us by name. Sending us flowers for my birthday, checking in on us to make sure we were taking care of ourselves,” Sara said. “They reminded us that we would not be able to take care of Connor if we did not take care of ourselves. They sat with us so that they could watch us hold Connor as he was attached to what seemed like a million different tubes.”
Connor was placed on total parenteral nutrition, also known as IV nutrition feeding – a method of getting nutrition into the body through the veins. Eventually, he was moved to the pediatric floor and began on breast milk. After gradually increasing the amount, Connor – now 9 months old – got stronger and went home.
Today, Sara feels blessed. Connor is doing well and hitting all the milestones a normal baby would. Connor will live with short bowel syndrome forever, Sara said, but her hope is that “his body continues to adapt.
“We would not be where we are today without the care and support we received from Hemby Children’s Hospital,” she said. “We are forever grateful for the care they provided to our sweet boy Connor and for keeping us parents in good spirits during the most challenging time of our lives. They will always have a special place in our heart.”