Special Delivery: Fast-acting Doctors Employ The Latest Neonatal Technology To Save A Couple’s Baby

Over the years, some physicians develop an additional sense. Like an internal navigator, this sense, or intuition, is felt very deep in the gut. Skill, time and confidence condition the sense, which can be a powerful force in changing and, at times, saving lives. Neonatologist Leslie Leigh, M.D., has a self-awareness and intuition that is pervasive. These characteristics, along with technology at Gwinnett Medical Center’s Gwinnett Women’s Pavilion, came to the aid of a Duluth family whose son was born with insufficient oxygen to the brain. On a cool, fall night in 2010, Dr. Leigh was at GMC, packing for home. But because he lingered that particular day, he was on hand for an emergency delivery.

Corey and Laurel Garner with
their two sons, Cooper (top)
and Drew.
Laurel Garner and husband Corey had every reason to believe the birth of their second son would be as typical as it was for their first; however, it was anything but normal. “Laurel’s delivery was a challenge,” Dr. Leigh says, “because of the size of the baby and the relatively small size of the mother.”

Cooper, Garner’s second child, weighed about 10 pounds at birth. During delivery, Garner experienced shoulder dystocia, which occurs when the child’s head passes but the shoulders cannot, and is considered an emergency. The umbilical cord is compressed and possibly pinched shut between the baby’s shoulders and the mother’s pelvis, starving the boy’s brain of oxygen and putting him at risk of brain damage or death.

The staff quickly discussed the options and decided to continue with natural delivery. “My husband and I knew it was a very serious situation when the clinicians and the doctor began praying,” she continues. “We kept hearing ‘code’ repetitively on the intercom system as Cooper was being rushed to the NICU [neonatal intensive care unit].”

SAVING THE BABY’S BRAIN
It was Dr. Leigh’s job to salvage Cooper’s brain. For treatment, the team used the Cool-Cap system, employing cutting-edge technology called selective head cooling. This approach consists of cooling the brain for a few days, then slowly rewarming it for four hours. The technology, which must be applied within six hours after birth, reduces the severity of neurologic injury.

Dr. Leigh and fellow GMC neonatologist Dan Suskin, M.D., purchased the equipment for the hospital a few years ago. “Because Cool-Cap technology allows real-time monitoring, we recognized increased brain activity in Cooper over the next 24 to 48 hours,” Dr. Leigh says. “His improvement was remarkable.”

CARING STAFF
“Initially, I didn’t think he was going to live,” says Garner, a second grade teacher at Chattahoochee Elementary in Duluth. “In his first hours of life, I was unable to see him because of the severity of his case; however, a nurse brought a picture of him, which I slept with. The team of nurses and physicians at GMC always called me and my husband with updates, and provided information when we called. By then, I was friends with the nurses.

“Learning to handle and care for a NICU baby was overwhelming,” Garner continues. “However, the nursing staff guided me so that we could care for Cooper, although there were times when they were taking care of me. The staff and physicians at GMC provided a loving experience.”

On his 10th day, Cooper was released to go home with his mother, father and big brother. At his checkups at 6 months and 1 year, the Garner miracle baby, as he’s called, met all physical, emotional and mental indicators of normal development. In fact, it’s hard to keep up with this baby, who was once wrapped in lifesaving technology.


More on Specialized Newborn Care
For questions about specialized newborn care at GMC, including
Cool-Cap technology, call 678-312-3970 or visit
gwinnettmedicalcenter.org

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