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John Michael
John Michael just one day old

Hello, my name is Jessica Chapman. My new son's name is John Michael III, this is his story. At 16 weeks gestation, my doctor called and told me that there was a problem with my bloodwork. He said that my bloodwork showed that there was a major problem with the baby. I was told that my AFP test was 3.3 times higher than normal, which is indicative of either spina bifida or anencephaly. At that time they told my husband and myself to seriously consider terminating the pregnancy because we are "young and capable of having other healthy children". You see, my husband and I have a healthy two year old who was the result of a normal, uncomplicated pregnancy, and because of that, we were told to end it and try again.

As young adults, the doctor thought that it would be difficult and unfair for us to be "burdened" with a special needs child, and he believed we should consider his recommendations. Meanwhile, they scheduled for us to see a specialist in about two weeks. For two weeks, my husband and I wept and prayed for the answer. As someone of a highly religious background, terminating my pregnancy was an idea that I couldn't even begin to fathom. So, two weeks later we went to the specialist for an extensive ultrasound of the baby. After about an hour, I noticed the doctor studying the baby quite intently and I asked him what he was looking at. He paused and simply replied, “Your baby has an abnormality." I began sobbing and asked him to elaborate. He then began to explain that our child had something known as Gastroschisis and he gave a nutshell version of what to expect at birth. After he had finished, I asked about his spinal cord and his brain development. Those looked fine. So my child can be "fixed"? Yes. He can lead a typical life of a child born without complications? It will be a rough start, but yes, he should be fine.

One week old

Relief swept over my husband and I as we realized that our determination to love our children equally, regardless of future difficulties, had saved the life of a beautiful, soon to be healthy baby boy. At 33 weeks gestation, I was admitted to the hospital in pre-term labor and stayed there for two and a half weeks on bed rest. At 35 weeks, I was diagnosed with severe polyhydramnios and the baby was diagnosed with ascites, which basically meant that we both had too much fluid in our bellies. This posed multiple problems for the baby, so they decided that a C-section was immanent. It took seven days to put all of his intestines back into his stomach and to close him up. At birth, his intestines were affected by the amniotic fluid and they had been squeezed into a tight ball, so the doctors couldn't tell if there were any blockages or atresias in the intestine. We knew there would be a second surgery, but we would have to wait 8 weeks until his previous surgery was healed. So my son lived on TPN, lipids, antibiotics and fluids for that time.

Six weeks old (nice hat!)
The big day for his surgery came. During his 8 hour surgery, the doctors found that his intestine had two atresias, meaning that his intestine was in three individual parts with no connection in between. They were able to connect the middle part to the lower part, but could not yet connect the upper part to the middle, resulting in a temporary colostomy. Now, we have to wait six weeks for this surgery to heal and for the intestine to get ready to re-connect, but the end is in sight. His colostomy began draining within 24 hours, which was a good sign that the intestine was healthy and ready to begin functioning properly. They began feeding him for the first time at 1 cc an hour to get his liver working. At this time, he is still on TPN, lipids, antibiotics and fluids, but he is 3 pounds heavier and growing every day! He holds his head up and smiles when he's spoken to. He gets in his swing daily and is quite content watching his fish mobile that we rigged over his bassinet.

Nine weeks old

We have another 4 weeks to go until, what we hope is his final surgery to re-connect his intestines. They predict to start feeding him by mouth and sending us home shortly thereafter. I will keep you posted with his progress. I know that many people aren't as fortunate as we have been, but I hope that my son's story brings hope to some. I also would like to say that ALL children are blessings and should be treated as such. No matter what "abnormalities or difficulties" they are wonderful gifts that are here for a purpose. Maybe his purpose is to bring hope.

Update on John Michael - September 2005. He had surgery and the doctors were able to connect two parts of his bowel but not the third, so he had a colostomy for about eight weeks. They went back in and reconnected the bowel and closed him up without any finally he was in one complete piece! Shortly thereafter, they started feeding him by mouth but only 5 cc's every three hours. They increased his feedings every day or two by 5 cc's. When he was getting about 75 cc's, he would not eat anymore so they put an NG tube down to ensure he got his caloric requirements. We found out that my son would rather play with the nurses than to eat, so I had to go feed him on many occasions to keep them from using the tube. A few days before we were supposed to go home, they said we would have to take him home with the NG son ate well for the last few days of our stay and we got to take his tube out. My son came home Sept. 16th at the ripe old age of 5 months, 4 days, and he is doing wonderfully. He is eating everything by mouth, having regular bowel movements, and growing steadily. It has been a long road, but finally putting that carseat in my car made it all worth every tear, every prayer, every doubt. I wish I could send pictures, but I am one of the most computer illiterate people I know so I will make my dad do that ASAP. Eeveryone, please keep praying - for my son and for all of these other special children. Never lose hope. Appreciate the small things. Never take a single moment for granted.

Mrs. Jessica Chapman C/O