April 13, 2013

Youngster facing surgery to correct spinal condition


---- — BURLINGTON — Rowan Roussy has had more than his share of ups and downs during his first 18 months of life.

Rowan was born 11 weeks premature, and at 2 pounds, 8 ounces, he was ill-prepared to face the challenges of life outside his mother’s womb.

“He has had his issues since being born,” said Rowan’s mom, Hannah Bushey, from the Vermont Children’s Hospital at Fletcher Allen. Since late February, Rowan has spent most of his time there as he awaits a complex surgical procedure to adjust problems with the position of his brain and spinal cord.

“He’s a happy baby,” she said of the young child’s inherent determination to survive. “He smiles constantly; even now while he’s been stuck in the hospital, he’s the happiest kid.”

Rowan required his first surgery within 24 hours of birth as doctors tried to adjust a serious problem with spina bifida, an incomplete development of the spinal cord or its covering.

His brain also suffered irreparable damage during his first week of life due to a lack of oxygen, and he had to undergo several surgeries to relieve pressure on his brain caused by excess fluid buildup.

Those conditions, as well as setbacks with Rowan’s physical and mental development, almost seemed secondary on Feb. 25 when another issue developed.

“When he would cry at home, he’d sometimes hold his breath and make himself pass out,” Bushey said of a developing concern. “This would usually last five to 10 seconds, and he’d snap out of it. But this last time, it lasted almost 45 seconds and required CPR from my boyfriend (Rowan’s father, Jason Roussy).”

Bushey immediately called 911 when her son initially did not respond, but by the time emergency-medical personnel arrived, Rowan was conscious, alert and his usual happy self.

Still, EMTs transported Rowan from the family’s Altona home to CVPH, and he was later transferred to the neonatal intensive-care unit at Fletcher Allen. Subsequent tests showed that a portion of Rowan’s brain was being pulled into his spinal column and needed to be corrected with a procedure called chiari decompression surgery.

A short while later, Rowan and his parents traveled to Boston Children’s Hospital where tests confirmed that he would need to undergo the procedure.

“He ended up getting pneumonia on the day of the surgery, and they had to postpone it,” Bushey said. “He needed time to recover and get his lungs stronger, so we came back here to Fletcher Allen.”

The next available date for surgery was not until mid-April, so Rowan’s parents tried to find an option for an earlier day at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire. That looked like a go, but then problems with New Hampshire accepting New York Medicaid cut the option short.

“We never canceled our (second) surgery date in Boston, so that is still scheduled for April 19,” Bushey said. “It’s hard to tell (what might happen) with that type of surgery. They can go in and do it and nothing could change, or we could have amazing results.”

Bushey, who also has a 5-year-old daughter, Abbie Mangum, does not know why she went into premature labor with Rowan. 

“I woke up and was bleeding,” she recalled. “I told my boyfriend to put Abbie on the bus, and I’d see him later. I didn’t think I was having a baby, so I drove myself to the hospital.”

Once there, she learned that she was in labor and delivered Rowan shortly after arrival.

Since then, they have had little time together as a family at home, but Bushey is looking at the upcoming surgery as a new start, an opportunity to help Rowan build himself up and overcome the obstacles that have dominated his first several months of life.

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WAYS TO HELP For more information on Rowan Roussy and his condition, visit his Facebook page at "Rockin' For Rowan." Family members will hold a bake sale at CVPH Medical Center on Monday, April 29. Staff, patients and visitors are welcome to purchase goodies, with proceeds going toward Rowan and his family.