Premature baby is smallest to get life-saving procedure


Special procedure gives child a second chance

NEW ORLEANS — Someday, far in the future, Baby Roosevelt Walsh will have a dramatic story to tell about the love and medical technology that gave him a chance at life.

Walsh, a premature baby weighing less than two pounds, wasn’t expected to make it, but when he did, doctors at Children’s Hospital had to perform a life-saving procedure they had not done on a baby so small.

Last fall, Roosevelt’s mother, Tiffanie Walsh, 24, had plans to go to law school when suddenly she found out she was expecting.

“I was definitely overjoyed because I love children,” Tiffanie said. “I just thought it was a blessing to give my husband kids, so we were extremely happy.”

But in her nineteenth week of pregnancy, her water broke. She was told Roosevelt would be born within two days and was too underdeveloped to live.

“I was bawling my eyes out. I was so, I was nervous,” Tiffanie said. “I didn’t know what was going on. I was like, ‘Why?’ You know. ‘Why is this happening?'”

Roosevelt surprised everyone and stayed in the womb, but with none of the protective fluid surrounding him. He hung on until the twenty-fifth week arriving 15 weeks early weighing only one pound, eight ounces.

“When I saw him, he was just so tiny and it was like, ‘Oh my gosh! He’s so little.’ And then they just whisked him away,” Tiffanie said.

Roosevelt was born October 21, 2015. His due date was February 2, 2016.

Dr. Brian Barkemeyer, an LSUHSC Neonatologist and Medical Director of the NICU at Children’s Hospital said Roosevelt was fighting an uphill course before he was born.

“His lungs were born too early, but they were also born underdeveloped because of the rupture of the mom’s water bag,” Barkemeyer said.

Barkemeyer said his airway was tiny too, so Roosevelt needed a breathing tube. As time in the NICU at Children’s Hospital went by, the already narrow airway began swelling from the irritation from the tube.

“Some of the babies, when the breathing tube is in for a longer period of time, it can cause some irritation into the lower airway,” Dr. Barkemeyer said. “And as a result, the airway gets smaller, and those kids may be in jeopardy of not having a large enough airway and sometimes a tracheotomy is necessary for those babies.”

A tracheotomy is when a tube is put in an opening cut in the neck so breathing can bypass the nose and airway. ‘

Barkemeyer said it could have been there for a few years which would have put Roosevelt at risk for infections, bleeding, pain, blockage from mucus, constant suctioning and even death.

But an LSUHSC Otolaryngologist and Pediatric ENT at Children’s Hospital, Dr. Sohit Kanotra, performed a surgery that had never been done successfully on such a small baby at Children’s Hospital. He moved cartilage from Roosevelt’s thyroid, in the voice box, to increase the width of his airway.

Doctors said this type of surgery does not usually happen until a child has had a breathing tube in through their necks for a few years.

“That gives the baby an additional three millimeters in the airway, which is a huge thing for a small baby, because that increases the airflow at least twice – 16 times as to what they were getting before the surgery,” Dr. Sohit Kanotra said.

“We were on edge during the surgery, just waiting for him to come out and say everything went good,” Tiffanie said, remembering her anxiety in the waiting room.

Roosevelt is now home and growing and breathing well. It’s too early to tell if being so premature will have any lasting health effects, but so far, developmentally, doctors said things look good.

A mom and dad who thought they’d never hold their first born can do just that every single day.

“I just feel like God is just so amazing, and he’s so good because he gave us this little blessing,” Tiffanie said. “And he’s a little fighter. He kept fighting all the way through.”