Children’s Miracle Network at Geisinger will launch its 25th-annual Celebration Weekend May 31.
The weekend activities once again will include a live broadcast on WTAJ beginning at 9 p.m. Saturday, May 31 and ending at 6 p.m. Sunday, June 1.
One of this year’s miracle kids is Anthony Lowery of Tyrone. This is his story.
Around Christmastime in 2006, everyone in the family was sick, Brenda Kirkpatrick and Craig Lowery say – but it was only their son, Anthony, who didn’t seem to get better. Instead, the youngster – who was just under 2 years old at the time – continued to get sicker.
Doctors first told them it was a chronic cough, then prescribed antibiotics. Nothing seemed to help.
“His appetite decreased, he cried all the time, and he wouldn’t sleep,” Brenda remembers.
When a fever hit and lasted for six weeks, it caused even more concern. And that fear only swelled when one of Anthony’s ears began to ooze – then the other.
“We went to the emergency room three times and were at the doctor’s office once every other week – if not every week,” Brenda says. “Anthony was in complete misery.”
After three months, Brenda and Craig were more determined than ever to find out exactly what was wrong with their child. Brenda returned to the doctor, insisting on answers to why Anthony was suffering. Since there didn’t seem to be an obvious answer, the doctor sent them for bloodwork, then for a chest x-ray.
“He said that Anthony had a really bad case of pneumonia, and it had completely infected his lung,” Brenda remembers, adding that they were sent immediately to their local hospital. “I started to panic at this point.”
A CT scan revealed the extent of damage to Anthony’s lung, which had collapsed. Possibly in a life-threatening situation, the young boy needed surgery and specialized care at a children’s hospital. The family chose Geisinger’s Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville, and Brenda rode in the ambulance with her son, holding him the entire way.
“I followed behind them in my truck, and I could see inside the ambulance. I watched them the whole way,” Craig says.
They arrived at 12:30 a.m.
“We had thought this would be a routine case, but then we saw Anthony’s scans and saw Anthony,” says Dr. Michael Ryan, chairman of Geisinger’s Janet Weis Children’s Hospital. As a pediatric infectious disease specialist, Dr. Ryan also was one of the first to treat the young boy. “In all my years, it was one of the most emergent pneumonias and empyemas I’ve seen.”
The severe pneumonia, an infection in the lungs, and empyema, pus filling the lungs, left Anthony in a dire situation, and he required immediate treatment.
“Everybody was there – so quick to help, to find out what the problem is and how quickly they can fix the problem,” Brenda says.
Anthony underwent emergency surgery and had chest tubes placed to drain the fluid from his lungs.
“When they drained it, there was five times the amount of fluid than his actual lung air-capacity was,” Craig says. “His heart was pushed over to one side, and his diaphragm was pushed down. That’s what was causing him so much pain.”
“It had been building up over time,” Dr. Ryan says. “It’s like going over a waterfall; as you get closer, the water gets quicker, and once you’re over the falls, you’re in real trouble. We got to Anthony just before he went over the falls.”
After the surgery, Anthony’s health immediately started to improve. As soon as he was able to eat, he ate all the food that was brought to him, his parents remember. It was a sight that seemed unreal.
His improvement continued over the next nine days – his total stay in the hospital. Brenda and Craig stayed with him in the room and watched his progress.
“That’s the beauty of pediatrics,” Dr. Ryan says, noting how resilient children can be. “Kids can be very sick, but they also can get better very quickly.”
Anthony’s care continued at home with two weeks of intravenous antibiotics and two weeks of oral antibiotics as his health continued to improve.
Now 3 years old, Anthony is as active as any toddler. While it’s possible that his lung suffered some damage, he has no restrictions, and it seems impossible that just last year, he was barely able to breathe without intense pain.
“He just bounced back so fast,” Brenda says.
It took a little longer for the parents’ fears to fade, however.
“It was several months until I was comfortable to sleep myself,” Brenda says, admitting that she still likes to sleep with the baby monitor on in Anthony’s room to hear a sound many people could take for granted.
“I like to hear him breathe.”
Children’s Miracle Network at Geisinger – celebrating its 25th year in 2008 – helps make miracles happen every day at Janet Weis Children’s Hospital, Geisinger Wyoming Valley in Wilkes-Barre, and more than 40 medical groups and pediatric specialty outreach clinics throughout a 31-county area. A nonprofit organization, it has raised more than $36 million for pediatric services, equipment and programs throughout Geisinger Health System.
For more information, call 1-800-451-5437 or (814) 943-8887, or visit www.geisinger.org/cmn.