On July 27, 2016, Micheal Vu Jr. was born six weeks early. Unknown to his parents, Melissa and Micheal Vu, their son had multiple congenital anomalies. Micheal Jr. was born with a tethered cord, anal atresia, multiple cardiac defects, tracheoesophageal fistula, cleft palate, renal defects, a limb abnormality (his right hand does not have a radius and he only has three fingers), heterotaxy syndrome with asplenia (born with no spleen, two right lungs, and two right atriums in his heart), duodenal atresia, and chronic lung disease.
When he was only one day old, Micheal had his first surgery to correct a tracheoesophageal fistula, a condition in which the esophagus and trachea are connected in places, and to get a g-tube. A week old, Micheal had surgery to fix the a portion of his bowel that had not formed properly with a colostomy. At one month old, had his third surgery to address severe narrowing of his aorta, which required a fourth surgery after a complication. Micheal spent a total of 113 days in the NICU.
Micheal was admitted back to Cardinal Glennon within his first month of discharge and he spent his first Christmas in the hospital. Only a couple days after going home from that admission, Melissa woke up to the sounds of Micheal coughing. She picked him up from his crib, and he quickly went limp and blue. Micheal Sr. did CPR while Melissa spoke with the 911 operator. Micheal started to breathe again and get his color back. “We wouldn’t have been able to do that if it wasn’t for the CPR classes required by Cardinal Glennon’s NICU,” states Melissa. Micheal was admitted to the hospital again, this time over the New Year’s holiday.
Melissa recalls, “We were in and out of the hospital from December to May. This is where I began to see the value and importance of the Complex Care Team that Cardinal Glennon offers. Micheal was connected to a dozen different doctors and departments at Cardinal Glennon. The Complex Care Team was our son’s advocate in reaching out to all of the doctors. They discussed Micheal to figure what was going on with his respiratory issues, and worked hard to try and get a plan in place. That was one of the best things that could have happened for our son, for our family,” says Melissa.
Among Micheal’s numerous birth defects were two holes in his heart, a ventricular septal defect (VSD) and atrial septal defect (ASD). “For most kids, these close on their own and they don’t cause issues,” says Melissa, “but it was offered to us to have heart surgery to close the ASD to see if it would help and we did it.”
After the heart surgery in June 2017, Micheal was in the hospital for 6 ½ weeks, during which he fought numerous infections. He spent his first birthday in the hospital. “Things started to look up,” stated Melissa, “but he was still having respiratory issues. Micheal’s ENT doctor took him back to the OR for further investigation and found a cyst on his trachea. He removed it, and since then, Micheal has done nothing but progress in everything. We took a chance having his heart surgery, but it was the best decision we ever made. Micheal was a completely different kid after that surgery.”
Micheal’s next surgery was in January 2018, to repair a cleft palate repaired and a procedure to help him with his urinary issues. He had two more surgeries, in November and January, to address two other of his birth defects. He has multiple surgeries in store for the future as well.
Melissa states that “there is constant support from nurses, doctors, and all staff from janitorial to workers at the cafeteria. That is one thing we love about Cardinal Glennon. The environment is full of kindness, love, and support. The Complex Care Team has continually been there for anything we need from simple questions, to hard questions, to communicating with multiple doctors, and overall listening to our concerns as parents for our son and always working with us to have a plan in place for everything going on at that time and having a plan set for future needs.”
“Through it all,” Melissa says, “Micheal has never complained. When he had to wear a full face mask to sleep at night, he never complained. Having to be plugged up to a feeding machine for long periods of time, he never complained. He doesn’t let anything hold him back, and he surprises everyone. I hope one day to share this story with him to show him how strong he is. During all of the difficult times, he is always trying to make us laugh and his smile can brighten up anyone’s day.”