Our Baby’s Remarkable Recovery After Duodenal Atresia Surgery
Gianna and Austin Gill were thrilled when they found out they were expecting another baby. They already have two boys, ages 4 and 18 months old, and were hopeful for a baby girl this time around.
“When I saw my OB-GYN at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC), she did a test to determine the baby’s gender when I was 11 weeks pregnant,” said Gianna. “While I was at work, a thought crossed my mind that perhaps the results were ready. Although I had hoped for a girl, I was perfectly fine with another boy. When I opened the results, I immediately sobbed. We were having a baby girl. We were thrilled.”
Overall, Gianna’s pregnancy progressed smoothly.
Around the 20-week anatomy scan, Gianna developed a marginal cord insertion. This condition occurs when the umbilical cord attaches to the edge or margin of the placenta instead of the center.
“Mine was positioned one centimeter away from where it should have been,” said Gianna. “The doctors assured me that it was a normal occurrence, particularly when pregnancies are very close together.”
As her pregnancy progressed, her baby continued to grow and develop without any complications. All her ultrasounds showed positive results, and she was even measuring slightly ahead, about five days beyond her expected due date. However, when Gianna reached the 30-week mark, she began experiencing unusual and concerning symptoms.
“I started spotting which was very weird,” said Gianna. “Every 30 minutes, I started having consistent sharp pain. I was only 30 weeks. So, I thought this can’t be contractions. The pain subsided a little bit.”
As the day went on, Gianna started having more sharp, intense pain and bright pink discharge. Feeling uncomfortable about everything, she went to BAMC for a thorough examination. Gianna spent several hours at the hospital under close monitoring and observation until her doctors decided to admit her.
“When I arrived at the hospital, my cervix was only one centimeter dilated,” said Gianna. “They checked me two hours later and I was at two centimeters. The nurses gave me IV fluids to prevent dehydration. The nurses said you are definitely having contractions and being dehydrated can cause contractions in your body. Two more hours passed by, and my contractions were now two minutes apart. They checked me again and they said you are at four centimeters and that’s when they admitted me. It was late, around 10 at night.”
Since Gianna was in pre-term labor, she was given steroid shots to help accelerate the development of the baby’s lungs and reduce the risk of complications associated with a premature birth. Gianna was also started on a magnesium drip to stop labor from progressing further, and to protect the baby’s brain development.
“As much as possible, the nurses tried to keep the baby inside me,” said Gianna. “But things were just happening super-fast. My contractions were getting closer together. At that point, I got an epidural to help slow them down. My husband was with me and we had our close friends watch our two boys.”
The next day, Gianna felt a wet sensation, indicating a rupture in the membrane surrounding her baby. “After 48 hours of receiving steroids, the nurses stopped my IVs and removed my epidural,” said Gianna. “I had progressed to six centimeters and was in active labor.”
A few pushes later, Gianna and Austin welcomed their beautiful daughter, Adalayne, on February 3, 2023 at 10:31 p.m. She was born at 30 weeks and 3 days, and she weighed three pounds and six ounces. “When she was born, she was breathing on her own, and she was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The team primarily focused on managing her prematurity, and she was doing well overall.” Then, 36 hours after Adelayne was born, the NICU nurses noticed something unusual.
“She began spitting up her milk after each feeding,” said Gianna. “My husband asked whether excessive spit-up was normal. The nurses were concerned and decided to investigate further and drew fluid from Adelayne’s feeding tube using syringes. They extracted 30 milliliters of dark green bile from her tube.”
Adelayne’s nurses consulted the doctor who then recommended an X-ray. The X-ray revealed a prominent white circle in the area where Adelayne’s stomach should be located. Unfortunately, the hospital only had one pediatric surgeon who was unavailable at the time.
The next day, Adelayne was transferred to CHRISTUS Children’s for further medical attention.
When they arrived at CHRISTUS Children’s, Gianna and her husband met with Neonatologist Dr. Maria Pierce. Dr. Pierce reviewed the X-ray taken at BAMC and performed her own X-ray and additional diagnostic procedures. Based on her expertise and analysis, she determined that Adelayne was suffering from duodenal atresia.
Duodenal atresia is a congenital condition characterized by the partial or complete blockage or closure of the duodenum, which is the first part of the small intestine. In a normally developed digestive system, the duodenum connects the stomach to the rest of the small intestine. However, in duodenal atresia, there is a malformation that results in the duodenum not being open or connected properly to the rest of her intestines.
In Adelayne’s case, her duodenum was completely disconnected from her stomach.
On February 7, Dr. Katherine Barsness, the Chief of Surgery at CHRISTUS Children’s, and her team performed the first laparoscopic surgical repair of duodenal atresia at CHRISTUS Children’s. The procedure involves making four small incisions in Adelayne’s abdomen, and using specialized instruments and a camera to connect the duodenum to the stomach. In the past, the repair of a duodenal atresia would require a large surgical incision with a prolonged recovery period.
“Adelayne did well after surgery and she began to gain weight,” said Gianna. “She had a little reflux and was still on a feeding tube because she was only 31 weeks gestation when she had the surgery. When she started showing her feeding cues, we attempted breastfeeding. When Adelayne did not go to breast, her breastmilk was fortified with extra calories, and she gained weight fast. As she became stronger and her feeding skills matured, her feeding tube was removed.”
Adelayne spent two months in the NICU at CHRISTUS Children’s before she was discharged.
Four-month-old Adelayne weighs nine pounds now – and as you can imagine – she loves to eat. She is alert and attentive and she just started social smiling. She loves her older brothers and they adore her.
“She is our little princess and she knows it,” said Gianna. “Austin and I are thankful to the doctors and nurses who took such great care of her. We consider ourselves truly fortunate to have been transferred to CHRISTUS Children’s for our daughter’s surgery. Dr. Pierce and everyone involved in Adelayne’s treatment brought us immense comfort and reassurance, and they treated our baby like their own.”
For more information about the Neonatal intensive Care unit at CHRISTUS Children’s, visit our website: