Parents thankful after infant’s ‘harrowing experience’
St. Augustine newborn makes rapid recovery with help from technology that opens restricted blood flow.
Johnny Woodhouse Published: 10/20/2017
Charles Arthur May came into the world on Monday, April 10, 2017. But minutes later, the 6-pound, 10-ounce infant was struggling for his life.
“As soon as he was pulled from the womb, I noticed he wasn’t crying. He was gasping for air,” said the boy's father, Jimmy May, who has been present for the birth of all four of his children. “They told me they needed to take him to their neonatal intensive care unit. I asked, ‘Can my wife give him a kiss first?’ ’’
Almost immediately after that parting kiss, baby Charles had to be sedated so he could tolerate being placed on a ventilator. Less than 48 hours later, he was transferred to the high-level NICU at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. Doctors there determined that the infant had persistent pulmonary hypertension, a serious disorder in which the arteries to the lungs remain constricted after delivery, thus limiting the amount of blood flow to the lungs and oxygen to the bloodstream.
To remedy the situation, Charles was placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, to allow more time for his lungs and heart to rest and heal. The technology circulated the newborn’s blood through a machine that adds oxygen while removing carbon dioxide, then returns the blood to the newborn. The technology, now in its 10th year at Wolfson Children's, “gives hope to parents and children,” said Karen Grissinger, MSN, manager of the hospital’s ECMO program, which has been recognized as a Gold Level Center for Excellence in Life Support.
“Once he was hooked up to the machine, he showed great progress,” recalled Jimmy May, whose son was listed as critical when he arrived at Wolfson. “Between being on the ventilator and the ECMO machine, he was completely knocked out for six days. It was a harrowing experience.”
Charles Arthur May, who is named after his mother’s father and grandfather, spent 20 days in the hospital before being discharged with a clean bill of health. “Sometimes, I just call him ‘Miracle,’ ” the boy's father said.