The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

January 13, 2014

Overcoming the odds: Local family back home after baby’s lifesaving surgery in Boston

JOHNSTOWN — Before Owen Sheridan was born at Johnstown’s Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center, his parents were told the chance of his survival was bleak.

But five weeks ago, infant Owen was born, although it was with a nearly seven-pound growth on his head.

The growth, a neural tube defect called an encephalocele, caused a portion of his brain to grow outside of his skull.

After Owen was born, doctors at Conemaugh said they were unable to perform the necessary lifesaving surgery.

Owen’s parents, Jen and Kevin Sheridan of Upper Yoder Township, were forced to call several hospitals before they found a surgeon at Boston Children’s Hospital willing to perform the surgery.

“They worked a miracle on our child,” Kevin said. “They did what no other hospital that we could contact was willing to do.”

Owen isn’t out of the woods.

“They told us that Owen has a long road ahead of him, but the fact that he is alive is enough for us right now,” Kevin said.

Fighting for life

The family returned home Sunday and is settling into a routine.

The Sheridans knew of Owen’s problem as early as 14 weeks into the pregnancy.

Multiple doctors told them the baby had little chance of surviving and offered to terminate the pregnancy.

But Jen would not hear of it, telling her husband “that’s our son, and if we as parents don’t fight for our son’s life, who would?”

“There is no scientific explanation for his survival,” Kevin said.

Doctors had little hope. The Sheridans were told that mostly like Owen would only take a few breaths after being born and succumb in the first few seconds.

“We opted to deliver the baby at Conemaugh because we were expecting the worst and we would be close to family and friends,” Kevin said.

What happened surprised everyone.

“He was crying and breathing on his own,” Kevin said.

“We were taking pictures and his eyes were following the movements in the room and the flashes around him.”

‘Miraculous’ birth

Both parents credit the quick work done by obstetrician Dr. Adib Khouzami and the maternity and neo-natal staffs at Conemaugh for saving Owen.

Owen was delivered  by Cesarean section.

Following the delivery, Owen was administered an Apgar test, which is designed to quickly evaluate a newborn’s physical condition and to determine any immediate need for extra medical or emergency care.

“He scored a 9 out of 10, and the assessment score was completely miraculous,” Kevin said.

Doctors in Boston operated on Owen on Jan. 3. He weighed 12 pounds, 5 ounces, but they didn’t know how much of that weight was spinal fluid and brain tissue.

“They drained 2.8 liters of fluid from his head and he is stitched nearly ear to ear following surgery,” Kevin said.

Baby Owen also has a normal sucking reflex which enables him to eat normally.

“He’s eating nonstop and hasn’t missed a meal yet,” Kevin said.

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