Doctors performed lifesaving keyhole surgery on a seven-month old baby this week after she developed a rare condition while vacationing in Grand Cayman.
For New Yorkers Adam Ullian and Brandi Thompson-Ullian and their seven-month-old twins, the trip was their first holiday as a family.
But when their daughter Caiden started vomiting days after they arrived on island, a relaxing break quickly turned into a life-or-death emergency.
They brought her to the Cayman Islands Hospital believing she had a stomach upset or dehydration.
But when she projectile vomited on the registration desk, staff realized it was something more serious.
An ultrasound identified the child was suffering from a relatively rare condition – intestinal intussusception – in which one part of the bowel folds into the other, creating a complete blockage in the gut.
Private consultant Dr. Zoltan Szucs advised that the child would need surgery to save her life.
“We were questioning the diagnosis,” admitted Mr. Ullian. “I was saying, no, we are not here for that. She has dehydration.
“I’m so glad they found it when they did.”
Initially, Mrs. Thompson-Ullian said, the family wanted to wait until they got back to New York, but doctors advised their options were to have the surgery in Cayman or evacuate to Miami.
“We thought it was something minor,” she said. “To be told your seven-month-old daughter needs surgery when you are on vacation in a foreign country, it is not quite how you want it to go.”
They endured a stressful few hours pacing the corridors of the hospital early Monday morning, before hospital staff emerged from the operating theater with two thumbs raised, to tell them Caiden was OK.
Dr. Szucs, who performed the keyhole surgery, said the procedure had not been done before on island. He said intestinal intussusception was a serious condition that could be fatal without intervention.
He said the condition was rare, particularly among infants, and occurred rapidly and without warning.
He praised the medical team for recognizing the condition on the ultrasound and everyone involved with the surgery for ensuring it went smoothly.
“I would like to emphasize that this is a team effort and everybody involved performed to their very best,” Dr. Szucs said. “You could say everybody just did their job, but here everybody doing their job well means the life. That is why we are here this morning with a seven-month-old baby laughing and eating normally, and happy.”
For Mrs. Thompson-Ullian, she was happy to see her child healthy again.
“She went from being completely out of it to her normal, happy self,” she said. “No mom has ever been so happy to see a poopy diaper.
“It was stressful, but at the same time we got lucky and we are so grateful for how kind and professional everyone has been.”
Caiden was expected to be discharged from the hospital on Wednesday and the family was looking forward to finally seeing some of Grand Cayman.
Mrs. Thompson-Ullian plays in a band, Brandi and the Alexanders, in New York, and her husband works for the city council. She said the trip, with Mr. Ullian’s parents, was their first family vacation since their twin girls were born.
“I still haven’t got to put my feet in the sand yet,” she added.