‘It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon’
A parent’s worst nightmare is to see their child with a serious medical condition. For Stephanie and Stefan Trabue, their hearts were shattered when their son Anthony needed several very serious medical procedures over the course of two months at Norton Children’s Hospital.
It all began on Oct. 26, 2014, when Anthony, 16 months old at the time, began limping on his right leg. Stephanie became concerned but thought the limping was caused by his shoes or from roughhousing with his brother, Brody. The next morning, Anthony woke up with a fever of 102.6, which prompted his parents to take him to the pediatrician.
The pediatrician performed a Strep test and blood work, then sent Anthony to Norton Children’s Medical Center – Brownsboro for further testing and diagnostic imaging. After an ultrasound and X-ray, Anthony needed more testing at Norton Children’s Hospital in downtown Louisville. Upon arrival, Anthony’s leg became swollen and slightly discolored.
Hospital staff ran Anthony’s blood cultures, and within 24 hours the Trabues were told he had an invasive Group A streptococcal infection in his leg with associated toxic shock syndrome. Toxic shock syndrome is generally caused by staphylococcal and streptococcal infections.
“When I first met Anthony, he was in shock due to his infection,” said Erin B. Owen, M.D., pediatric intensivist in the Norton Children’s Hospital “Just for Kids” Critical Care Center. “Shock can have many causes and is the end result of the body’s supply of oxygen not meeting its demand. Infection can also cause inflammation in the lungs, and due to his shock and failing lungs, we had no other choice but to intubate him.”
The rapid response team was called, which is a team of health care providers that respond to patients who are experiencing early signs of deterioration.
“Now when I think back to that day, everything is just a big blur,” Stephanie said. “As a mom, I knew something was very wrong, but at this point I didn’t realize how serious Anthony’s condition was becoming.”
“Anthony’s condition was critical and life-threatening,” said Dr. Owen, who also is assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Critical Care Medicine at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. “His condition is very rare, occurring in less than five cases per 100,000 people.”
The sum of Anthony’s condition included everything from respiratory, circulatory and kidney failure, to an injured liver and blood clots. The worsening swelling in Anthony’s leg required immediate surgery, performed by David S. Foley, M.D., pediatric trauma surgeon at Norton Children’s Hospital and associate professor with the University of Louisville School of Medicine Department of Pediatric Surgery.
Dr. Foley opened up both sides of Anthony’s right calf to determine where the infection was located and to relieve compartment syndrome, a life-threatening condition in which increasing pressure in an extremity can compromise blood flow and damage tissue.
Over the course of two months, Anthony was on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) to relieve cardiac and respiratory issues for 11 days, a ventilator for 19 days and dialysis for 18 days.
“Our time at Norton Children’s Hospital was a blessing,” Stephanie said. “The nurses and hospital staff treated Anthony like he was their own child.”
“A nurse by the name of Hope Hodges was one of the people that really sticks out in my memory as being a great caretaker,” Stephanie said. “I immediately trusted Hope with my child. She was so knowledgeable about the care Anthony needed.”
While Dr. Owen was a great advocate for the Trabue family, Dr. Foley also made a lasting impression, particularly with Stephanie.
“I remember Dr. Foley using the phrase, ‘It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon,’ and that is now a saying I live by,” she said. “I had the quote engraved on a charm bracelet I wear every day to remind me of everything our family has gone through and to never give up on hope.”
While Anthony was in the hospital, Stephanie created the “Anthony’s Journey” Facebook page as a way to keep friends and family updated on his progress. She also sold T-shirts and donated the proceeds, nearly $2,000, to Norton Children’s Hospital. Stephanie’s parents, Michael and Laura Schnell, also made a generous donation to the Children’s Hospital Foundation.
Now nearly 2 years old, Anthony is back to his typical toddler antics thanks to the life-saving care provided by Norton Children’s Hospital facilities.
“We could not be more grateful to everyone at the hospital for saving Anthony’s life,” Stephanie said. “It was a rough two months, but with family, the great staff and the caring physicians, Norton Children’s Hospital felt like home to us.”