Georgia baby suffers brain injury after fall
'Little Hulk' receives life-saving trauma care at Wolfson Children's Hospital
Juice Staff Published: 11/12/2018
The unexpected can happen in the blink of an eye. Robert and Jennifer Payne were enjoying a Saturday morning at their Brunswick, Ga., home with their eight-month-old son, Liam, who they affectionately call “Little Hulk.”
An active infant, Liam is a happy baby and has a smile that lights up the room wherever he goes. That morning, Liam pulled himself up – a new activity he was learning – by holding onto the family’s coffee table. Liam was so excited about his latest accomplishment.
Seconds later, he let go of the table. Instead of falling backwards, Liam tumbled to the side, hitting his head on the table’s metal leg. Even though his mom and dad were right there, it happened abruptly and they couldn’t stop the fall. How quickly things changed.
“After he fell, Liam instantly started screaming and crying,” Jennifer Payne said. “Call it 'mother’s intuition,' but I knew something was terribly wrong.”
Payne called Liam’s pediatrician, Amy Pavlou, MD, of Pediatric Associates of Brunswick. Dr. Pavlou recommended they bring Liam immediately to the Emergency Care Center at Southeast Georgia Health System’s Brunswick campus, where they were seen by emergency physician Maria Wolf, MD.
A CT scan confirmed Liam had suffered a life-threatening epidural hematoma from head trauma. Dr. Wolf reached out to Wolfson Children’s Hospital of Jacksonville, which provides pediatric specialty care to children of all ages from North Florida, South Georgia and beyond.
Pediatric neurosurgeon Philipp Aldana, MD, co-medical director of the Stys Neuroscience Institute at Wolfson Children’s, recommended emergency surgery.
The relationship between Southeast Georgia Health System and Wolfson Children’s helped facilitate rapid coordination of care for Liam, who was transferred from Southeast Georgia Health System by helicopter to Wolfson Children’s. Dr. Aldana and the team at Wolfson Children’s were waiting for Liam when he arrived.
“As soon as Liam’s CT scans were available at Southeast Georgia Health System’s Emergency Care Center, Dr. Pavlou and Dr. Wolf notified our Trauma Team at Wolfson Children’s immediately,” said Dr. Aldana. “Our operating room team was ready for Liam when he arrived, and he was able to enter the operating room area within 10 minutes of the helicopter landing on our helipad.”
From normal day to brain surgery
In Liam’s case, his life depended on brain surgery. He had an epidural hematoma, bleeding that happens between the outer membrane covering the brain (dura mater) and the skull as a result of head trauma. Liam’s case is not common and only occurs in about three percent of children. Only about a tenth of those children require emergency brain surgery.
“Liam had a very large hematoma (brain bleed) that was putting pressure on a large part of his brain,” said Dr. Aldana. “This can compromise the brain’s blood supply, potentially causing a stroke. Or it can further expand and compress vital parts of the brain such as the brainstem in a process called cerebral herniation that can be fatal.”
Liam spent three days at Wolfson Children’s before he was discharged to go home.
“Dr. Aldana was amazing – we couldn’t have asked for a better doctor,” Payne said. “He was honest and open, and he saved our baby’s life. The entire staff including every doctor, PA, RN, CNA, nursing student and rehabilitation team member, will forever be in our thoughts. We are blessed they were the ones to care for Liam.”
Liam’s incision is healing, and “Little Hulk” is active, happy and alert. Liam will continue to receive follow-up care with Dr. Aldana at Wolfson Children’s Hospital.
“As terrible as it was, I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome,” Payne said. “Nothing could be worse than those feelings, thoughts and minutes that we experienced. We are so grateful and thankful that day played out the way it did in the end. Prayers from all around the country were being said for our ‘Little Hulk.’ It was a one-in-a-million situation, and I am forever thankful and grateful for the care we received."
For a list of pediatric outpatient specialty care offered at Wolfson Children's at Southeast Georgia Health System, visit wolfsonchildrens.com/brunswick.