Getting help for Sweet Little Princess Ireland
Peering into an incubator at Children’s Hospital in St. Paul on Dec. 22, Deven Meyer was all smiles as he placed a new little doll next to the small baby girl inside.
The toy was a gift for his 7-day-old sister, Ireland Kay.
Ireland, or ‘Princess’ as her 2-year-old brother Wesley likes to call her, was flown to the neonatal intensive care unit after being born with Tracheoesophageal Fistula (TEF), a birth defect where the trachea connects to the esophagus; and Esophageal Atresia, where the esophagus doesn’t fully extend to the stomach. Because the trachea (or windpipe) and the esophagus don’t completely separate during fetal development, air enters the gastrointestinal system, causing the bowels to distend and mucus to be breathed into the lungs. This can result in pneumonia and other breathing problems.
Ireland was born Dec. 15 — three weeks premature — to Shanna and Sean Meyer of Winnebago. While medical staff had concerns during the delivery, their focus at the time was on Ireland’s mom and not Ireland.
“I had a normal pregnancy until two weeks before delivery,” says the new mom. “I found out then that I had polyhydramnia, which is extra amniotic fluid — the baby couldn’t swallow it.”
Shanna also developed elevated liver enzymes during her pregnancy.
But medical staff had no idea that anything was wrong with Ireland. It wasn’t until after her birth that attention turned to the newborn’s medical conditions.
Shanna was holding her daughter for the first time when she noticed bubbles forming on the edges of the newborn’s mouth. Thinking it was simply the baby spitting up, she handed Ireland to Sean. Within seconds, Ireland began turning blue and needed to be rushed to the nursery.
The newborn’s lungs were working at 70 percent. Still unsure exactly what was wrong with their daughter, Shanna and Sean had the baby baptized in the nursery.
It was the last time Shanna would see her little girl until being reunited with her in St. Paul 12 hours later.
Ireland, who was diagnosed with Trisomy 21 Down Syndrome, spent a total of three weeks at Children’s Hospital, where she was fitted with a tube used to feed her. Her parents were told her TEF could be repaired, but they must wait until Ireland’s esophagus grows long enough to connect to her stomach.
During Ireland’s stay, doctors also found she suffers from a heart condition known as a bicuspid aortic valve; her heart’s aortic valve has just two leaflets, where normal hearts have three. While the disorder isn’t causing problems at this time, Ireland will have to be monitored throughout her life to make sure her valves don’t begin to leak.
Once at home, Shanna and Sean have had to take on many of the tasks completed by health care professionals, like suctioning her feeding tube.
“It’s been hard,” says Shanna. “We’ve had to bring (Ireland) everywhere because no one else knows how to do it.”
Today, at almost three months old, Ireland has reached many of the same milestones other newborns reach — like learning to suck her thumb and smiling, but the young girl has also had to overcome obstacles like eating on her own.
Her parents are hoping that surgeons will be able to close the gap between her esophagus and stomach on a scheduled visit March 13.
In the meantime, Sean, Shanna, Deven, Wesley and all who know Ireland are simply enjoying their new little ‘princess,’ and waiting anxiously for the day they can hold her without all the tubes that are currently still necessary.
Two benefits are being held to help the Meyer family with expenses.
The first is being held Saturday, March 15, at the Mankato Eagles Club, 708 N. Riverfront Drive, from 8-11 a.m. A trust fund has been set up for Ireland at Wells Fargo Bank, 1600 Madison Ave., Mankato, MN 56001. (507) 387-9254.
Also, a hog roast is scheduled for May 3 at the Winnebago Municipal Center. The event will be sponsored by the Winnebago Women of Today.