Last week I touched briefly upon Big Brother’s diagnosis of Oesophageal Atresia, while still in the relative comfort of my womb. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be writing a series of posts about his journey from the womb to the healthy three year old that he now is, in an attempt to raise some awareness about this congenital birth defect and to try to help other parents and their children, who may be going through something similar.
What is Oesophageal Atresia?
To understand the problems surrounding children with Oesophageal Atresia, we first need to look at the function of a normal oesophagus in comparison.
“The oesophagus (gullet or ‘foodpipe’) is the passage through which food moves on its route from the mouth to the stomach. It starts in the neck, just behind the larynx (Adam’s apple), and ends below the diaphragm where it joins the stomach at an acute angle.”
Oesophageal Atresia (OA)
“The word ‘atresia’ is taken from ancient Greek and means ‘no passage / no way through.’ Thus in oesophageal atresia there is a break in the continuity of the oesophagus. The end nearest the mouth is not attached to the end which enters the stomach, the gap usually occurring high up in the chest. The presence of a blind-ending pouch in the upper oesophagus means that food is unable to reach the stomach; any swallowed milk or saliva instead returns to the mouth.”
There are other variations of this defect however for the purposes of this story, I’ll be focusing on this one type.
I was 28 weeks pregnant with Big Brother when, on a regular growth scan, we were hit with the discovery that his stomach couldn’t be seen. Combined with the abnormal amount of amniotic fluid I was carrying (also known as polyhydramnios and which was off the scale!), it was an immediate cause for concern and for the ultrasound technician to dash out and grab a second opinion.
After much prodding, poking and being told that I was amazing for actually managing to walk with the size of my hefty, fluid filled bump (seriously, big brother looked like he was a little astronaut, bouncing around on the moon, there was that much fluid), I was sat in a private room and given the verdict.
The reason why I had so much fluid, was because my little astronaut couldn’t swallow it. This also explained why nothing could be seen of his stomach. If he couldn’t swallow any, there wouldn’t be anything in it! So, with him puking back up any fluid he’d tried to swallow, along with his marvellous ability to urinate, my bump was the equivalent of a camels hump and was growing at an alarming rate.
At the time, it was a nightmare to take in. I had doctors sat in front of me, telling me that as soon as he was born, big brother would need to be operated on, in a hospital miles away from home. I would need to be monitored closely because, if my waters broke (which there was a strong chance of happening any time), the force of it could rupture the placenta and send him into shock, endangering both of our lives. In the meantime, I would be booked in the following week to have some of the fluid drained away and some of it, would be sent for analysis, to see if there was any abnormalities in his chromosomes. That’s right, a huge fecking needle, right into my bump!
The words buzzed around my head like flies and it wasn’t until I got back home, put my aching legs up on the sofa and closed my eyes, that I realised I wouldn’t be taking my baby home.
Come back next week, to find out how having a huuuge needle shoved into my belly, helped me to find the strength to keep going and as always, if you’ve had any experience of something similar, or have anything to say, then by all means keep the comments coming. I love to hear from you all.
The quoted text is from: TOFS | Support for families of children born unable to swallow and was provided to them by JAS Dickson FRCS FRCSE FRCPCH, Consultant Paediatric Surgeon, Sheffield Children’s Hospital.