Saturday, November 16, 2013

PAM FOD #13 - Preemie complications: NEC

Prematurity Awareness Month
Fact of the Day
Day 13

Q: What were you most afraid of with your son being so small and early?
A: I'd read a lot of blogs of 23 week micropreemies in those early days, and then I stopped. It seemed like even the babies who made it months could sometimes still die. I was afraid of that death, it always seemed so sudden. The cause of that death in at least one case was Necrotizing Enterocolitis, or NEC. So that became my biggest fear. I know a lot of classicists and they shutter at the word. Because they know that Necrotizing means "death."  BUT while NEC is serious and potentially deadly, there's hope. NEC means a baby's bowels are harboring necrotizing bacteria that's killing off the lining of the intestines (the "enterocolitis").

Scary stuff. If you know a baby who has recently been diagnosed with this, pray hard. A NICU nurse told me those first 48 hours are huge. It can hit any preemie, regardless of gestational age at birth. They say that in general the later the baby is born, the better, and breast fed babies tend to fare better than formula fed babies.

But breast fed babies get it too. See?  JAM -- exclusively breast fed (with an added fortifying supplement of prolacta, which is made of breast milk) -- caught NEC at a month old.

And babies can survive NEC.  They're put on aggressive antibiotics to kill the bad evil killing bacteria. (I hate NEC, can you tell?)  If that doesn't work and their bowels perforate, sometimes surgery can remove the dead bowel. If you retain enough bowel, you may even grow normally.

JAM had one section of his bowel removed due to NEC. It contained 1/3 of his large intestines removed and some of his small intestine.

The good news is, now he can't get appendicitis.

And he faced my worst fear for him at a brave 1 month old and 2.25 pounds (dry weight). It's all uphill from here.

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