CHOP doctors help miracle baby overcome rare diagnosis

- Having a baby is one of the most exciting times in the lives of parents, but for Lauren and Eric Harkness, joy turned to fear when they learned their unborn child was diagnosed with a rare birth defect.  A routine ultra sound in Lauren’s fourteenth week of pregnancy revealed a shocking and devastating diagnosis.

"They said you know he has what we think is a cystic lesion on his right lung and here are your options,” said Lauren.

Their unborn child had a rare birth defect known as Congenital Cystic Adenomatoid Malformation, or CCAM.  The ultrasound showed that their unborn baby had a huge mass on his right lung, and the prognosis was not good. 

"Fear, a lot of words we didn't understand. I think we both immediately shot to 'we are losing the baby,'” said Lauren.

To make matters worse, the couple’s doctor in Arlington, VA had limited experience with the condition, and the parents-to-be immediately started researching CCAM.  The couple soon discovered that Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment was their best option, and they booked the first appointment available. 

Upon visiting with CHOP’s Chief of Surgery, Dr. Scott Adzick, at 19 weeks into her pregnancy, the situation escalated when they realized the cyst had grown substantially. 

"Huge right side lesion. There's 3 lobes on the right, two lobes on the left. This looks like it occupied most of the right lung. Heart pushed away over to the side, squished, heart failure,” Dr. Adzick explained to the Harknesses. 

Fetal surgery was an option, but the CHOP team decided on a prenatal steroid treatment to save the baby’s life.  Dr. Adzick learned that giving Lauren steroids called Betamethasone would help mature the lung and stop the growth.  Lauren also broke a CHOP record for enduring four rounds of shots over a 12 week period to save the baby from heart failure.  The heart failure went away and the growth stopped, but the growth was still very large. 

On November 3 of last year, Lauren underwent a planned C-section in the special delivery unit at 37 weeks, and the couple named their new son Camden, nicknamed Cam. 

Immediately upon delivery, Camden was sent to an adjacent operating room where Dr. Adzick performed a delicate and lifesaving surgery.  The situation was nerve-wracking and frightening, but Lauren and Eric knew Camden was in the best possible hands 

Camden barely made it through the operation, and was sent to the NICU.  The new parents weren’t able to see their son for the first time until six hours later, and couldn’t hold him for a day or two.  Once they were finally able to hold their new baby boy they were filled with feelings of relief, calm, and happiness. 

Although Camden made it through his first surgery, more bad news was ahead.  Dr. Adzick discovered another mass during the first operation, but it was simply too risky to remove at the time.  Camden was back in surgery just three and a half weeks later. 

Cam spent two months in the NICU at CHOP on high frequency ventilation, but he managed to pull through. 

"Someone told us when we got in the NICU, these babies will amaze you. They are stronger than any of us will ever give them credit for,” said Lauren.

Camden is now seven months old, and chest x-rays show that his lung is growing nicely.  A baby’s lungs continue to grow until they reach about eight-years-old. 

"There's a saying, to operate on a baby and save a baby, saves a lifetime...and I think our team has done that. He's a wonderful little kid. I mean look at him, he's a wonderful little boy.  He's just gonna be great,” said Dr. Adzick.

Baby Cam is still on a feeding tube, but it’s just a matter of time before he no longer needs it.  He will continue to see a team of specialists at CHOP every six months or so, but his recovery is looking bright. 


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