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Facing the slimmest of odds at birth, boy celebrates first birthday

Before he was born, doctors spotted a rare and often fatal condition

hydrops fetalis

Benjamin Burdette and his family will celebrate his first birthday on Friday, June 23.

A stranger attending the celebration for the happy, healthy boy would notice nothing unusual — nothing that would give away the fact that this day is more than a birthday. It is a miracle.

Amy Burdette had what she thought was a very normal pregnancy. Dad, Tim, and big brother, AJ — all of 2 1/2 — were looking forward to the new addition to their family.

During Amy’s 32-week checkup, however, unusually large measurements led her doctor to immediately refer her to the Norton Children’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine, which specializes in caring for women with high-risk pregnancies.

The physicians found that the baby had hydrops fetalis, an abnormal collection of fluid in at least two different organ spaces. The diagnosis is both rare and dangerous. It occurs in one in 1,500 to 4,000 deliveries, with 60 percent to 90 percent proving fatal.
neonatal intensive care unit
Because the unborn baby’s condition was so severe, Amy was admitted that day, June 20, for close monitoring.

Whitney Jamie, M.D., met and monitored Amy and her baby on June 23. The baby’s status continued to worsen.

“I had to tell her that the best chance for the baby was a preterm delivery and to let the neonatologists try to support the baby and find and treat the cause of the hydrops,” Dr. Jamie said.

Amy delivered Benjamin by C-section. He immediately needed resuscitation, intubation and surgery to drain fluid.

“There was a team of 15 people waiting for Benjamin in the OR to drain fluids,” Amy said. “When we saw him in the NICU, he had three chest tubes and many monitors. We couldn’t even hold him until July 9.”

Benjamin’s stay in the Norton Children’s Hospital NICU was full of ups and downs. Amy credits University of Louisville Physicians neonatologist Evangelia Gravari, M.D., and the entire NICU team not only for saving Benjamin’s life but also for caring for the entire family through the process.

“The team was wonderful about keeping us constantly updated, answering questions, encouraging us on the good days and comforting us on the hard days,” Amy said. “We felt confident leaving him at the end of the day, as we knew he was in good hands.”
miracle baby

Less scary than hydrops fetalis could have been

After 54 days, Benjamin met the criteria to be discharged. He was feeding independently and going five days with no episodes of any kind.

Once home, the Burdette family found that Benjamin was a great sleeper. With some early help from Norton lactation consultants, he became a great eater as well.

“Whenever I see a smiley, healthy baby like Benjamin and remember the fight … to save his life, I feel amazed at the resilience of these tiny humans that often defy the odds,” Dr. Gravari said. “I feel energized to continue to provide excellent care to babies and families in an amazing, cordial NICU environment where everyone from secretaries to nurses, fellows and colleagues will put their best effort forward to improve the family’s scary experience.”

The Burdette family certainly feels like their experience was less scary than it could have been.

In fact, there may be one tell-tale sign of Benjamin’s harrowing journey at his birthday party. In lieu of gifts, guests have been asked to donate to the Norton Children’s Hospital NICU.

Benjamin’s birthday gift to the world: more miracles.

Want to support babies like Benjamin?

It takes the commitment of everyone to help Norton Children’s fulfill the mission of providing for the physical and emotional health of all children.

Designate your donation to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

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