Flora: What Is Esophageal Atresia?
Meet tiny Flora, born earlier this month in Jiangxi province.
Flora’s orphanage called us when they realized she had been born prematurely with an anorectal malformation called anal atresia (AA). When she came to the hospital, this little one weighed just 1.6 kgs. Our hospital manager told us she was so tiny that her head was no larger than his fist.
Not only did Flora have anal atresia, but she also had complete esophageal atresia, a much more complex condition. Anal atresia was the immediate concern, however, and doctors performed the surgery for this condition.
Following first-stage anal atresia surgery, Flora was put on a ventilator. We were concerned that she might not even have the strength to recover from her initial surgery much less be strong enough to have surgery for esophageal atresia.
So, what is esophageal atresia? Let’s have an quick anatomy review. The esophagus is the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. Atresia describes a condition in which something is closed off or not connected.
In babies born with esophageal atresia, which occurs in 1 out of about 4,000 births, the upper part of the esophagus does not connect with the lower part, making swallowing and eating difficult if not impossible. It is almost always a fatal condition if not corrected.
Boston Children’s Hospital has a very informative page and short video on this condition which you can access here: http://www.childrenshospital.
Complications from esophageal atresia can include aspirating liquids or saliva into the lungs. The tube you can see in Flora’s mouth is being used to continuously suction saliva away so that she doesn’t choke. She has been fed by both a feeding tube which delivers formula to her stomach and an IV delivering supplemental nutrition.
Babies like Flora who are born with esophageal atresia must have their heads sloping downward to allow the formula go to the top part of the stomach to help this part develop better, which will be helpful for when she has esophageal reconstruction down the road.
Flora has proven to be quite a tiny warrior and has exceeded our expectations! As soon as she is bigger and a bit more stable she will be able to have her esophageal atresia surgery which we expect to be quite challenging. For now, she is sleeping quite peacefully and calmly in her incubator, growing stronger by the day.
We are so grateful to our partner, Sage Harvest Gourmet Jerky, for helping us to fund Flora’s medical care! They have shown such love for this little peanut, and now their stories are forever woven together.