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14 Years Later, Miracle Baby is Just a Normal Teen

To look at Allen Brothers today, you’d never know he had a rough start in life. Today, he’s a healthy 14-year-old, full of all the sass and attitude that comes with being a teenager, says his mother Christie.

Allen’s rocky beginning was first identified at 35 weeks when Christie’s OB/GYN identified that she had too much amniotic fluid, a common occurrence for babies with Down’s syndrome. Amniocentesis ruled out that diagnosis, but showed that baby Allen had a duodenal atresia, a condition in which the small bowel has not developed properly.

It was late on a Friday night, and Dr. Oluyinka O. Olutoye, M.D., Ph.D., of Texas Children’s then very new Fetal Center, came by her hospital room to explain Allen’s condition and the surgery her baby would need.

“I took his card and thought, I’ll have to research this before making a decision,” remembers Christie. “But then I went into labor and we didn’t have a choice. We had to trust Dr. Olutoye and Texas Children’s.”

Upon birth, more problems became apparent. In addition to the duodenal atresia, Allen had a tethered spinal cord, an imperforated anus, and a tracheal/esophageal fistula, meaning his esophagus connected to a blind pouch rather than his stomach.

“The Kangaroo Crew from Texas Children’s transported Allen from Methodist and the miracles began,” recalls Christie. “Dr. Olutoye made us feel like everything was going to be okay, and it was.”

A series of three surgeries were needed to correct Allen’s gastrointestinal defects and he spent seven weeks in the NICU. A later surgery corrected his spinal cord. He needed a little speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy to help him build skills and muscles unused due to his surgeries and hospital stay, but otherwise, he’s followed a normal development trajectory.

A department of firsts

At the time, the Fetal Center and Dr. Olutoye were so new to Texas Children’s that Christie recalls the NICU nurses didn’t know who he was. In fact, 14 years ago Allen was one of the first patients ever seen by the then new Fetal Center.

Texas Children’s was one of the first such specialty departments established in the country, and Dr. Olutoye and his team were founding members of this highly specialized multidisciplinary team of surgeons, OB/GYNs, diagnosticians, pediatricians, neonatologists, anesthetists and nurses.

Today, Texas Children’s Fetal Center continues its pioneering work to find surgical and medical treatments that improve outcomes for both mother and baby. Dr. Olytoye is happy to report that Allen’s completely healthy long-term outcome is what they hope for, and often get, thanks to their multidisciplinary team approach.

The silver lining in a tough beginning

A person who tries to find the silver lining in any situation, Christie remembers feeling grateful that Texas Children’s was in their back yard. She and Craig got to know many families in the NICU who were far from the support of family and friends.

“Allen was our first, so we didn’t have anything to compare it to, but we felt blessed to have a baby,” says Christie. “The entire staff made us feel like we were part of our child’s team. They did a great job of explaining things to us.”

In an earlier time, Allen wouldn’t have survived. But thanks to Dr. Olutoye’s surgical skills and the NICU staff’s expertise, Allen today enjoys school, hunting with his dad and younger brother Cinco, and working on becoming an Eagle Scout. He’s also an artist and had one of his works accepted into the art exhibit at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo when he was in fifth grade.

Allen doesn’t require follow-up visits with any specialists and is seen by a Texas Children’s pediatrician.

Christie keeps a photo by her bed from Allen’s time in the NICU. “He’s hooked up to every machine and tubes are going everywhere, but I don’t’ see any of that. I just see my baby boy,” says Christie. “As I turn out my light each night, I go to sleep feeling blessed by and thankful for Dr. Olutoye and Texas Children's Hospital.”