Cool Cap a life saver
Hours after his birth in 2010, Bobby Edmonds of MaryD wears a Cool Cap in the NICU at the Janet Weis Children's Hospital at Geisinger Medical Center, Danville. The specialized pediatric device uses cool water to prevent swelling of the brain in an effort to prevent possible brain damage.
It's been a hectic day, but before you can go home and relax, there's one more stop to make picking up something for dinner. As you approach the cashier, your mind is buzzing with hundreds of little details. Did I lock the office door? Did I turn out the lights? How long is this going to take? What else do I have to do tonight?
Paying for groceries is an almost mindless act, as you spend the time in line thinking about anything but groceries. When the cashier asks if you want to donate one dollar to the Children's Miracle Network, you stop for a second or two to process the request. You shrug, say sure and then put your name on the little paper hot air balloon the cashier provides, all while hurrying to just get done and go home.
You don't think twice about that balloon until the next time you're in the grocery/retail store and the cashier asks again.
That is, unless you are like the Edmonds family of MaryD, people who know firsthand just how those paper balloons add up and help children in need.
In 2010, Tim and Linda (Lazur) Edmonds were completing their family, expecting a second son to go with their two daughters, Ariana (13) and Kaylyn (9), and son, Timothy (7). When Linda went in to labor, there wasn't an initial hint of just how wrong things could go. Labor wasn't progressing as usual, but the family wasn't overly worried. That is, until the obstetrician did a pelvic exam, determined there was a prolapsed umbilical cord and turned to leave the room.
The OB nurse, who Linda identifies as her guardian angel Chrissy, quickly stepped in to try to keep the blood flowing from mother to child. Linda went through an emergency C-section, without the benefit of anesthesia. For 10 minutes after his birth, Bobby Edmonds didn't take a breath. The staff and pediatrician, Dr. Pat Kane, worked feverishly to resuscitate and stabilize the newborn.
When Bobby was stabilized, Dr. Kane spoke to the family about the certainty of damage to Bobby's brain. She also explained that the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Janet Weis Children's Hospital at Geisinger Hospital, Danville, had a piece of equipment that might be able to help minimize the damage.
That device is a Cool Cap, a soft, plastic, fitted cap crisscrossed with channels to allow cool water to be evenly distributed around an infant's head. This would keep Bobby's brain at a cooler than normal temperature, preserving tissue and protecting the brain from swelling. The cap was only effective if used within six hours of birth. The family took Dr. Kane's advice and the infant was Life Flighted to Danville.
Bobby's brain had already started to swell by the time he reached Geisinger, but neonatalogist, Dr. James Cook, started the cooling process immediately. The family was warned about the possibility of significant brain damage due to the lack of oxygen when his heart wasn't beating for those first ten minutes.
For three days, the baby was kept in a medically-induced coma to prevent overstimulation of his brain. Tim spent those three days at his son's side, unable to even provide a comforting touch, hoping Bobby would at least be able to take care of himself as he grew older. Linda joined him as soon as she could, leaving the maternity ward against medical advice.
"It was a very scary start, seeing him lying there; and there was nothing we could do to help him," she laments. After 10 days in the NICU, Bobby went home. The only evidence of his traumatic birth were quiet seizures. The family had to wait and see how the baby would progress. Tests had determined there was moderate damage, but there was no way of telling how that would affect his motor skills and cognitive ability.
That first year was filled with daily physical and occupational therapy. Linda remembers how even little things, like changing the position of his crib or approaching him from different sides, took on significance.
"He lagged a little behind as an infant, favoring his right side," she noted. Mom-mom Karen Edmonds explains the damage to Bobby's brain caused his muscles to contract for extended periods of time.
"We had to make sure we stretched the muscles, especially on his left side. It was even more apparent when he started pulling himself up and tried to walk. With my own kids and other grandkids, I never realized just what it takes to actually take a step."
Today, Bobby is a healthy 3-year-old, constantly on the go, keeping his extended family very busy. It wasn't until he was selected as one of Geisinger's 2013 "Miracle Kids" that the family learned the Cool Cap was available at Geisinger because of those paper hot air balloons.
"Like the general public, we didn't realize just how important those small donations can be," says Linda. "The innovations and equipment that are now, or are becoming, available are very costly. Children's Miracle Network donations help hundreds of children, one child at a time."
As a Geisinger Miracle Kid, Bobby has been treated like royalty, first at a luncheon in Danville in February, then at the Children's Miracle Network telethon in early June. His story, and those of other children helped by donations from the public, can be found online at www.geisinger.org/cmn.
"Our goal is to stress just how important those donations can be, Karen adds. "They are literally the difference between life and death for some children. In our case, Dr. Kane and her team saved Bobby's life. The Children's Miracle Network, through the Cool Cap, saved his brain."
Unfortunately, Tim didn't get to see the progress his son has made, although Karen is sure her son is watching over them. He died in an accident just three months after Bobby's birth. The last three years have been a bittersweet struggle, but the family works together to conquer all challenges. One of those challenges is to now make sure everyone understands the importance of those paper balloons.
There may be many unknowns in Bobby's future, but his family is sure they will be able to handle whatever comes next.
After all, Tim's prayers for his son have already been answered.