For Lauren Meredith and her family, this holiday season has been a time of joy and gratefulness after the care and expertise they received from the experts in Texas Children’s Colorectal and Pelvic Health Program. It stands in sharp contrast to the nightmare she and husband, Ryan, experienced a year ago when their third child, Ava, was born with a rare congenital disorder of the colon that doctors thought would make her unable to pass stool. With sparse information and little time to weigh their options, the anxious parents had to make the quick decision to have Ava transported to a hospital in the Texas Medical Center for surgery – a colostomy – which she underwent at just 12 hours old.
Unfortunately, their long, hard journey was only beginning.
“We were sent home with relatively little information on how to properly care for her,” Meredith said. “I was making 10 to 15 calls a day to the doctor’s office, the insurance company and the medical supply company, but no one was helping. We felt completely alone and unprepared to tackle this complex medical issue.”
At a breaking point, Lauren began a search for help and answers online, where she first read about Texas Children’s Colorectal and Pelvic Health Program. On Christmas Eve 2017, she sent an email to Dr. Timothy Lee, pediatric surgeon and program director, explaining their ordeal.
The next day, the Merediths got their own holiday miracle.
“Dr. Lee emailed me back – on Christmas Day – and three days later we had our first appointment,” Meredith said. “The care, from the minute we walked in, was like stepping into a different world. The communication was incredible. I really felt like I was being heard for the first time.”
In August 2018, the colorectal and pelvic health team performed an operation to repair Ava’s initial defect and assess her gynecologic anatomy. And this past November, Ava had her colostomy reversal. Her prognosis is excellent.
Today, Ava – who turned one year old on December 13 – is a happy, healthy little girl who loves when her older brothers, Jackson and Greyson, sing to her and build forts for her to play in. She loves to snack, especially tacos. And she loves cuddles with her dad when he gets home from work.
“The team at Texas Children’s has given us so much to be thankful for,” Meredith said. “They took the burden off us and made us feel like they were on our side. We could tell from the very beginning that the entire Colorectal and Pelvic Health Program cared about Ava and wanted the best outcome.”
The full spectrum of care
A child’s diagnosis with a congenital disorder of the colorectal and urogenital system can be a heartbreaking and trying ordeal for families. Since these conditions are rare and often complex – and because no two cases are exactly alike – some institutions may lack the expertise necessary to provide effective treatment.
Fortunately, a highly skilled, multidisciplinary team of specialists at Texas Children’s Hospital offers patients and families the full spectrum of care for these disorders in our Colorectal and Pelvic Health Program.
Watch the video to learn more.
The Colorectal and Pelvic Health Program comprises four different specialties – pediatric surgery, pediatric urology, pediatric and adolescent gynecology, and gastroenterology – and provides treatment for several disorders and developmental anomalies, including imperforate anus, hirschsprung’s disease, cloacal malformation, cloacal exstrophy, and severe idiopathic constipation.
Regardless of the disorder, the team works together to develop a customized approach to care for these complex, and often sensitive, medical issues.
“Many of these conditions can have an extreme negative impact on the self-esteem of a child,” said Dr. Paul Austin, director of Texas Children’s Complex Urologic Reconstruction Program. “Knowing that we can make a positive difference through the care that we provide is extremely rewarding.”
Specialists collaborate to identify the patient’s specific issues and determine the best path to a positive outcome and improved quality of life, whether through surgery, medication or some combination of treatments. Additionally, the team has focused on improving patient care through clinical research and development of best practice pathways to standardize and streamline clinical care for this complex patient population.
“This hallmark of the program is providing multi-disciplinary collaborative care,” said Lee, pediatric surgeon and program director. “Even though these conditions aren’t common, we’ve seen more and more of them at Texas Children’s as our patient volume has grown. Parents can be confident when they come to us that they will be receiving truly comprehensive, collaborative care delivered by experts who have been treating these kinds of patients for years.”
Learn more about the Colorectal and Pelvic Health Program.