What was Calvin born with?
Tracheoesophageal Fistula and Esophageal Atresia (TEF/EA), type C, short-gap.
What is it?
A rare congenital birth defect that affects approximately 1 in every 4500 babies. While developing during pregnancy, the esophagus does not form correctly. There are different variations of the condition but with type C the upper half of the esophagus ends in a blind pouch (dead-end), and the lower half is connected to the trachea. This makes it impossible for the baby to swallow any saliva which leads to difficulty breathing. Additionally, since there is a connection between the stomach and the trachea, stomach contents are able to make their way into the lungs.
What causes it?
There is currently no known cause for the condition.
What is the treatment?
Treatment involves surgery to repair the wrong connections. The esophagus is disconnected from the trachea and repaired. Calvin had surgery when he was 3 days old. Not every baby is as fortunate. Some are required to wait in the NICU and “grow” until the two ends of the esophagus are closer together.
How long was Calvin in the NICU?
Two weeks. Again, he was very fortunate. Many babies struggle with feeding and/or breathing post-repair and require much longer hospital stays. He actually took very well to breast-feeding on day 10 of life, the first day he was allowed to eat after surgery. I am very grateful for that.
What is life like after surgery?
This is very different for every baby. There is a misconception that since they are essentially “fixed” from a surgical point-of-view that they are cured of their condition. However, many of these children face several chronic issues such as acid reflux, weak immune system, floppy trachea, barky cough, aspirations, and more that they will have to deal with for life. Some face more challenges than others, and only time will tell which ones Calvin will have. So far, he deals with acid reflux, which was terrible at the beginning but is finally pretty well controlled with medication, and a floppy trachea (known as tracheomalacia), which makes him have a barky cough. This leads to some pretty interesting comments from strangers in public who think I’ve brought my sick baby out shopping!