Despite her mother having a normal pregnancy, Emerson went into severe respiratory distress immediately after she was born. She scored zero on the Apgar scale, a 10-point system used to assess newborn babies’ overall health, and was immeidately rushed to the hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). She was unable to be stabilized, so at 17 hours of age was transferred to the Children’s Hospital Colorado NICU.
After Em was finally stabilized at CHC, it was determined that she would need to go on ECMO - a heart and lung bypass machine - in order to save her life. Em was put on ECMO on day 2 of life, and luckily was able to come off of it 5 days later. After 5 weeks and a battery of tests, the CHC NICU physicians determined that Emerson’s diaphragm – a critical muscle for breathing – wasn’t functioning due to the thinness of these muscles. She also had hypotonia - low overall muscle tone, which affected her heart and lungs.
An extensive neuromuscular and genetic screening did not uncover a specific diagnosis to explain her condition. At 3 months of age a feeding tube for nutrition was placed. After multiple attempts of coming off of the ventilator, and two diaphragm plication surgeries, a tracheostomy tube was placed to assist with her breathing.
For the next few months, she received extensive support from a multi-disciplinary team of physicians and therapists at Children’s Colorado. At 7 months old, Emerson was finally able to go home, becoming one of the youngest patients to be discharged on round-the-clock breathing support (tracheostomy and home ventilator).
Since then, with the help of therapy and care from a variety of specialists at Children’s Colorado, Emerson has not only beaten the odds, but has also thrived. Her trach was removed at age 2 - almost exactly 2 years after it was placed, and by age 3, she no longer required supplemental oxygen. She was also diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 2 1/2, and continues to work with a care team to support her medical needs.
Em now attends a school for gifted and talented students, a feat her parents attribute, in part, to the excellent interventions she received at Children’s Colorado. Today Em is known as a brave, kind and loving little girl with an old soul, who loves to read, bike, ski and climb.