Emilee’s Early Birth Led to Breathing Problems

Stephanie gave birth to baby Emilee in her hometown hospital, Tower Health Reading Hospital. Born a few weeks early, Emilee’s lungs didn’t have enough time to fully develop, making it difficult for the little newborn to breathe properly. 

Lungs Failing Despite Heroic Efforts

Emilee had an exceptional group of doctors and nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), who battled day and night to save her young life. Despite their heroic efforts, Emilee’s lungs were failing only three days after she was born. Her care team recognized that Emilee’s best chance of survival was with their pediatric neonatal partners at Tower Health St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. There, the Level IV NICU [link to new neonatal page] would become a second home for Stephanie and Emilee.

Advanced Life Support Restores Normal Lung Function

Immediately upon arrival, the critical care team [link to new critical care page] prepared Emilee for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). Her care team knew that ECMO offered the best chance for survival. ECMO uses a pump to circulate blood through an artificial lung back into the bloodstream, providing heart-lung support. It requires surgery to attach the pump lines to the large vessels in the neck or groin.

ECMO performed Emilee’s vital functions and gave her strained heart and lungs time to rest and recover. Stephanie, her husband and their twelve-year-old son never lost faith in Emilee’s recovery. 

Emilee’s organs soon began to function normally. She was taken off ECMO and received breathing support only. Over time, Emilee transitioned from a breathing tube to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy to help her breathe on her own. Next, her care team focused on feeding Emilee through a tube. She soon learned to eat on her own. Although Emilee was still healing, she showed a great amount of resilience and strength. 

NICU Team Will Never Forget

Emilee had a dedicated NICU team by her side 24/7. It included neonatologists, surgeons, nurses, support services, pharmacists, therapists, subspecialists and child life specialists. Together, the team provided high-quality, family-centered care.  

Stephanie praises Oge Menkiti, MD, Medical Director for the Regional Fetal Evaluation Center. Dr. Menkiti was knowledgeable throughout Emilee’s entire journey. “He not only cared about my daughter’s well-being, but also my family’s,” Stephanie says. “Dr. Menkiti’s compassion helped us through the challenges and he would ask us how he could help — beyond answering the medical questions we had.”

Photo of baby Emilee

Treating Emilee affected Dr. Menkiti as well. “I feel honored that Stephanie and her family allowed our team be part of her medical care and life,” Dr. Menkiti says. “Although our patients come in different sizes and face different levels of illness, they all teach us something and always have a special place in our hearts,” says Dr. Menkiti. He says his team is much better today because of Emilee and her loving family. “We will never forget her and I pray that Stephanie and her family enjoy Emilee for decades to come.”

Healthy at Home

Emilee was released from the hospital a month after her arrival. By then, Stephanie had been feeding Emilee several times a day, a milestone for mother and daughter. Emilee brings so much joy to her family and is growing into a healthy, lively baby.