Growing Stronger Through Little Blessings

Your Generosity Gave Matthew A Fighting Chance

The Mullen family grew from three to four in June 2017. Baby Matthew was eight weeks earlier than expected, which caused some concern for Christy and Trey, but they were excited to meet their little boy.

“We didn’t know anything was wrong,” Christy said. “My amniotic fluid was high, which had caused a very uncomfortable pregnancy for me, but my obstetrician said there weren’t any problems. When my water broke early, we knew it was going to be a scary start, but we had no idea exactly how scary and life-threatening our journey was going to be.”

Matthew was born with VATER syndrome– a combination of congenital birth defects that occur together. “VATER” is an acronym that refers to five different areas in which a child may have abnormalities: vertebrae, anus, trachea, esophagus, and renal (kidneys). The syndrome affects only one in 10,000 to 40,000 newborns annually.

“Matthew was born with an imperforate anus, and he could not breathe on his own,” Christy said. “He was immediately transported via helicopter from New Braunfels to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio for specialized care.”

Medical teams at The Children’s Hospital ran CT scans and determined emergency surgery was the only way Matthew would survive.

“That was the beginning of our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) stay,” Trey said. “We were in the NICU at The Children’s Hospital for five months. We stayed in the Ronald McDonald House that entire time; the Hospital became our new home.”

“Matthew coded while he recovered from his first surgery; he was only one week old,” Christy remembers. “The team immediately went to work with compressions – we were terrified, but Matthew kept fighting.”

Matthew underwent a tracheostomy the following July, but his airway was too narrow, due to his small size – he weighed only four pounds.

Physicians tried again three days later, and were successful. Matthew would need to grow more before surgeons could attempt to attach his esophagus. In the meantime, Matthew had a feeding tube, colostomy bag, and a trach tube to help him breathe. He also suffered from a tethered spinal cord and brain bleeds.

“While it was a very scary time, we were grateful to have so many specialists all in the same place at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio,” Christy said. “He had to see physical therapists, occupational therapists, neurosurgeons, genetics, otolaryngologist (ENT), and so many others; we were also grateful to have additional services like child life and spiritual care – we needed them all; they took care of our whole family.”

“We had to see educational specialists to help us learn how to care for Matthew’s special needs before taking him home,” Trey said. “We had the opportunity to meet with a trach tube specialist who helped us feel comfortable and equipped enough to take care of him at home; she tirelessly and patiently worked with us. The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio is one of the only hospitals with a trach educator. It was a blessing.”

Thanks to the surgeons, medical teams, and generous donors, like you, Matthew continues to grow stronger today. He sees his specialists often and still has some obstacles to overcome, but he is thriving.

“We are working on getting his trach out next, so he can breathe normally, but that will come in time as he grows,” Christy said. “He will have medical issues his whole life, but he will be okay cognitively, and we will continue to overcome. He should be able to live a normal life; and that’s all thanks to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. The entire staff has been a tremendous blessing; our lives have been impacted forever.”

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Our specialists are committed to serving and providing the best possible care – body, mind, and spirit - for our children and their families. We believe CHRISTUS Children’s is the best place for every child in need of medical care and we prove that every day, through every nurse, every child life specialist, every staff member. One of the best ways to highlight this care is to share incredible stories from our patients and their family members. It’s a way you can help us continue to bring hope and healing to inspire others. If you’re a current or former patient, a loved one, a caregiver, or friend, we would love to hear about your healing journey at CHRISTUS Children’s.

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