Kim Start was five months pregnant with twin girls when she went for a routine sonogram that ended up being anything but routine. The sonogram showed a large mass in the chest of one of her daughters. The happy emotions she and her husband, Tim, had about their babies suddenly turned to fear and worry.
“We learned our baby had a hole in her diaphragm (called a congenital diaphragmatic hernia), which caused her intestine to grow into her chest, pushing on her heart and a lung,” Kim says.
“Babies with a diaphragmatic hernia have about a 50% mortality rate,” says Dr. Kevin Moriarty, Chief of Pediatric Surgery at Baystate Children’s Hospital.
FOUR TINY INCISIONS
Kim remembers how, as soon as they found out about the mass, doctors in the Davis Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), as well as Dr. Moriarty, talked with her and her husband, explaining everything and giving them a tour of the NICU where her daughter would stay after she was born. “They made me so comfortable, and trusting that I knew my kids were going to be in good hands,” Kim says.
Six days after the girls (Zoey and Avery) were born, Dr. Moriarty operated on Zoey, making four tiny incisions to surgically repair her diaphragmatic hernia.
In the NICU, the caregivers knew Zoey was a twin and took care to make it easy for the newborns to be together. Nurses placed a bassinet right beside Zoey so Avery could come and visit and always have a place. “It was a wonderful feeling that the staff were thinking of both girls,” Kim says.
Zoey did very well and at thirteen-days-old, she was home. “Any child who survives a diaphragmatic hernia, you know they’re going to be a fighter,” Dr. Moriarty says.
THE TWIN DYNAMIC
Zoey continued to see Dr. Moriarty and Kim was impressed by how he included Avery. “He understood the dynamic of twins,” Kim says. Avery came to Zoey’s appointments and even if it was a silly thing like looking at Avery’s belly button when they were toddlers, Dr. Moriarty made her part of the exam and conversation.
“There was something about Dr. Moriarty that is just comfortable, he makes you feel at ease when you're going through something very stressful,” Kim says. “He's a wonderful man.”
THE FEARLESS FIRECRACKER
Now a healthy seven-year-old, Zoey loves to dance with her sister, jumping and twirling and smiling. “They are typical sisters,” Kim says. “They fight over toys, but they do love playing together and have their own secret language nobody can figure out. They both love school a lot, which I hope continues. They’re very sweet girls, especially to each other.”
Kim marvels that Zoey has no fear. “You would think that a child who went through what she did would be afraid of things, but we’ve told her she’s not different from anybody else, that she’s all better now,” Kim says.
“We see kids often at their worst,” Dr. Moriarty says, “and then when we see them when they’ve recovered, and to hear them laugh, that’s what makes our job the best job.”
“Dr. Moriarty and Baystate, they really took care of her and made her the little firecracker she is. The advanced care at Baystate kept Zoey alive for us,” Kim says.