Against All Odds
Jolyne was not expecting to go into labor on a late June day, but she did. Baby Elizabeth was born six and a half weeks premature, and she was not breathing. Doctors whisked her from the delivery room. A neonatologist told Jolyne and her husband that their baby would need a neurosurgeon. In the hours that followed she was transferred to Duke Children's Hospital & Health Center where her young parents learned that their first child was born with spina bifida, the most common permanently disabling birth defect. The following day they learned that Elizabeth also had hydrocephalus, Arnold Chiari Malformation, club feet and a neurogenic bowel and bladder. At just two days old Elizabeth had brain surgery to insert a VP Shunt and surgery to close her spine. She barely weighed four pounds.
From the beginning physicians at Duke Children's believed that Elizabeth would live a full life despite her medical needs. She was at risk for many issues but with proper intervention she would do well. Her parents were given tremendous hope.
Elizabeth had her third surgery when she was one year old to correct her club feet. The next month she had her fourth surgery to revise her VP shunt. The following spring the orthopaedic surgeon performed a de-rotation osteotomy on both of her legs, marking a fifth surgery for the two-year-old. In 2002, Elizabeth became very ill and spent three weeks at Duke undergoing what seemed to her parents like never-ending tests. She had her sixth and seventh surgeries before being discharged just prior to her fourth birthday. An eighth surgery when she was seven would help her to keep walking. She continues to be followed routinely by her pediatrician, the Myelodysplasia team (consisting of neurodevelopmental pediatrics, orthopaedic surgery, neurosurgery and urology), her endocrinologist and her physical therapist-all of whom consider the beautiful, bright, smiling young girl one of their own.
Despite eight surgeries, various hospital stays, countless tests, three daily medications and on-going doctor appointments Elizabeth is a "regular" beautiful, loving little girl. She attends Douglas Elementary School in Raleigh where she is a popular fifth grader. She likes to read, write stories, draw, swim on the local swim team, ride her bike, ride horses, play her guitar and play with her friends and her little brother, Grant, and little sister, Gigi. She loves ice cream and pasta. People who meet Elizabeth are immediately drawn to her. She is smart, kind, caring, happy and witty.
"I have thought many times how profoundly different Elizabeth's life would be had she not been born in Durham and followed at Duke," says Elizabeth's mother Jolyne. "Every time I see the slogan, ‘Duke Children's Miracle Network', I know that my child truly is one of Duke's miracle children. I am grateful for the compassion and kindness shown to us by the physicians, nurses, therapists and staff throughout our sometimes painful journey and for their expertise. I am also grateful for the Duke Children's Miracle Network for all of the things it provides to make my child's path a little less difficult."
Elizabeth's conditions and complications could have been devastating. But with Duke Children's, the love and support of her family, and a fighting spirit, Elizabeth has battled against all odds to become a charming and vivacious little miracle.