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From Neonatal Intensive Care to College, This Baby’s Come a Long Way

It’s back-to-school season again – a fresh start for students ofall ages. One recent event, however, reminded me of how many babies get theirvery first start in life here at Pennsylvania Hospital. Pennsylvania hospitalOn May16th,this past spring, Janelle van Leusdan, who now lives in Wheaton, IL, stopped by PennsylvaniaHospital with her son Job, the oldest of her fourchildren, to snap some photos. With Job still in his graduation cap and gownand clutching his diploma, it was obvious they were not visiting the hospitalsas tourists. They were here for something more. They were coming back to – for Job – where it allbegan.

Twenty-four years ago, on March 16, 1989, Janelle was 30 weekspregnant when she was transferred to PAH from Reading Hospital. She didn’t haveenough fluid for her son to grow in utero, and his heart rate was dropping. “Myobstetrician told me that if my son had any chance to survive it would be atPennsylvania Hospital,” recalled Janelle. Like something out of a movie, thenext thing Janelle knew, she was being whisked away to PAH, via ambulance, hermother and sister trailing behind by car, and her husband on a plane flying homefrom a family wedding in Europe.

“As soonas we arrived at the hospital, the staff was ready and waiting for us.Everything happened so fast,” said Janelle. After a series of tests, doctorshad to prepare Janelle for what she and little Job were up against: he had onlya ten percent chance of survival, and if he lived, the tiny baby, Job, faced a 90percent chance suffering from severe mental retardation and additionalabnormalities. It looked as if Job didn’t have developed kidneys, and his heartrate still hadn’t stabilized. Late on the night of March 17, Janelle wasprepped for an emergency cesarean section. “As they were taking me for myspinal, my c-section was suddenly postponed. My case was so risky, my doctorwanted to be sure my husband saw me before going into the OR. He arrived in themiddle of night and come early the morning of March 18th, I had myc-section.”

Job van Leusden was born at a mere one pound eight ounces, and 13inches long. “The first thing he did was pee when he was born so we were allthrilled to know he had kidneys!” said Janelle. “I will never forget the firsttime we met with the doctors after Job’s birth. They said it would be a hugeroller coaster ride, and they were right.” Jobbirth3 (2)

Job was so tiny and frail andattached to so many tubes and lines Janelle couldn’t hold him for the wholefirst month of his life. By the time he was able to be held, he still onlyweighed in at two pounds, two ounces. Once Job hit the three pound milestone,he was transferred to the “big boy nursery” in PAH’s Neonatal Intensive CareUnit (NICU). But then little Job suffered a set-back: He developed a hernia andwas transferred to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for surgery. After oneweek at CHOP, he was back in the PAH NICU, where he continued to receivespecialize care until he was finally able to go home four months after hisbirth in July of 1989.

Shown here is Janellewhen she was finally able to hold Job over a month after his birth.

“My son wasn’t supposed to make it, and if he did, all odds weresurely against him,” said Janelle. “Due to the experienced doctors and staff atPennsylvania Hospital, my healthy 24-year-old son graduated from TempleUniversity on May 16th this year with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Thankyou Pennsylvania Hospital for my precious gift!”

2013 PAH ICN Reunion: “Neverunderestimate the size of miracles.”

Just as PennsylvaniaHospital (PAH) is known as our nation’s first Hospital founded in 1751,it’s also clearly known for “birthin’ babies.” In fact, the hospital delivers thelargest number of babies per year within the City of Philadelphia, and has beenat the forefront of neonatal services since the mid1950's. As a result of this specialty reputation, approximately 40 percent of the infants born at PAH are from high-riskpregnancies and about half of them require advanced neonatal care.

Thankfully,the PAH neonatal team is known for its successful care of extremely smallinfants – some weighing less than 500 grams, or just one pound. According to data from an internationalcomparative database (Vermont/Oxford Neonatal Network), PAH ranks consistentlyamong the best centers in the US for outcomes of preterm infants.

This fall, there will be a celebration of some of “tiny” patientsuccess stories – like Janelle and Job’s – to come out of PAH. On Saturday, October 5th, families,physicians, nursing staff, donors, sponsors and many others who have journeyedthrough PennsylvaniaHospital’s Intensive Care Nursery will reunite for a free,fun-filled day to honor the hospital’s Intensive Care Nursery graduates.

For more information please visit: http://www.pennmedicine.org/ICNReunion.

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Views expressed are those of the author or other attributed individual and do not necessarily represent the official opinion of the related Department(s), University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine), or the University of Pennsylvania, unless explicitly stated with the authority to do so.

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