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  Life-saving treatment for the tiniest patients
May 20, 2009

Children’s team helped save one triplet’s life.

The Harris family 
Three years ago, Debbie gave birth to triplet boys: Austin, Barak, and Christian. It took a delicate transport from a community hospital, three surgeries, and a long stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) before Barak was able to go home with his brothers and parents.

Debbie went into labor at 32 weeks gestation, and her babies were relatively healthy. After a short stay in a hospital in Montgomery County, the family headed home to Frederick County. A few days later, Debbie noticed Barak wasn’t eating, and on the advice of her pediatrician, she brought him back to the hospital.

When his conditioned worsened, it became clear that Barak needed to be transported to Children’s National for specialized care. Children’s National’s dedicated neonatal transport team was called in to bring him to Children’s National. Children’s Transport Team consists of highly trained medical professionals, using equipment specially designed for tiny babies.

Barak had been suffering from necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a serious condition that is common in premature infants. NEC is a gastrointestinal disease that affects all or part of the bowel. Soon after his transfer, Barak went into the first of what would be three operations to help him heal. His bowel had become obstructed, so the team of pediatric surgeons took out part of it.

Barak Harris following surgery in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Barak following surgery in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
“It was so difficult to see him after surgery,” recalls his mom Debbie. “He had lines and tubes coming out of everywhere.” Barak remained in the NICU for more than three months.

Barak slowly started to recover, but then became sick again. Ten days after his first operation, he went back in for another operation and part of his intestine was removed. According to one of Barak’s pediatric surgeons,
Phil Guzzetta, MD, it is not uncommon for premature infants to require multiple operations to recover from NEC.

“Barak was extremely ill and it took a multidisciplinary team of skilled neonatologists, pediatric surgeons, and NICU nurses to help him and his family through,” explains Dr. Guzzetta. “What’s unique about Children’s is that our team is very comfortable taking care of very sick babies.”

Debbie, who made the 2-hour drive to see Barak everyday, can attest to the skill – and care – of the team. The NICU nurses encouraged her to visit and considered her an important part of Barak’s care team. She would return home at night to see her other children, but she was comforted by the care Barak received, particularly by one of his favorite nurses, Rey Emmanuel, RN.

“When Barak was most critical, we knew he was in good hands when Rey was with him,” recalls Debbie. “The NICU team loved my boy like its own.”

Slowly, Barak began to grow stronger and recover. He needed one final operation and was able to return home the next month.

Almost three years later, the family is at home, adapting to a busy household with triplets who just celebrated their third birthday. Debbie is grateful for the care her son received at Children’s National.
Barak Harris
Barak


“If it wasn’t for the doctors and nurses at Children’s, I know Barak wouldn’t be here today with his brothers,” says Debbie. “Every time I see my son, I am thankful for the wonderful team at Children’s.”

Children’s National has the region’s only level IIIC NICU, the highest designation provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The multidisciplinary team includes pediatric surgeons and fellowship-trained pediatric anesthesiologists, providing the highest level of care for the smallest patients. Children’s National is the only hospital in the region dedicated exclusively to caring for infants and children.

In addition to providing world-class care, Children’s National also is a leader in research. Pediatric surgeon Cindy Gingalewski, MD, is an international leader in the research of the causes of necrotizing enterocolitis, through her work at Children’s Research Institute.