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The miraculous gift that saved Cameron's life

April 06, 2012

Caroline believes in miracles. She believes in miracles because her son, Cameron, is a living, breathing example of a miracle, and she cherishes him every, single day.

As soon as Cameron was born at a community hospital on February 26th, 2009, it was obvious that something was wrong. Rather than crying, as most newborns do, he was oddly quiet. Doctors soon recognized that Cameron was having trouble breathing. After holding her newborn son for just a few moments after birth, Caroline waited while Cameron underwent numerous tests. The next time she saw him, he was lying under an oxygen hood in the nursery, surrounded by doctors and nurses. And, Caroline, a first-time mom at only 20 years old, cried.

Cameron was soon transferred to another hospital to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) where he was diagnosed with a rare birth defect known as congenital cystic adenomatoid malformation (CCAM).  Cameron had large cysts growing on his lungs, which made it impossible for him to breathe on his own. On his fourth day of life, Cameron underwent surgery to remove the cysts along with the damaged portions of his lungs. For most children born with CCAM, once the cysts are removed, they can live a normal, healthy life.

But, for Cameron, things were more complicated. It became clear over time that Cameron’s lungs were too damaged for him to breathe on his own. He underwent several procedures intended to help stabilize him, yet nothing worked. He was being sustained on ventilators and complex machinery, but even with those he had frequent, life-threatening episodes.

As the days and weeks passed, Caroline and her family began to question what their next step should be. Caroline longed to bring her baby home and care for him as a normal mother would. She wanted to hold him and play with him. Instead, she slept at the Ronald McDonald House at night and spent her days by his bedside, hoping for even small improvements each day.

After much discussion and consultation with other experts, Cameron’s doctors reached out to transplant specialists to determine whether Cameron may be a candidate for a lung transplant. After more than three months in the NICU, Cameron was transported to Texas Children’s Hospital to be evaluated for a lung transplant, and on June 12th, 2009 he was placed on the transplant waiting list.

Caroline moved into another Ronald McDonald House facility near the Houston hospital and prepared to stay indefinitely. Her family members came to visit as often as possible while juggling work commitments at home. However, on July 6th, she received devastating news. Doctors informed her that Cameron’s condition was deteriorating and began preparing Caroline for the possibility that he may need to be placed on a heart/lung bypass machine. She knew that Cameron may not survive much longer.

That night, Caroline returned to her room. With no family in town at that time, she was alone. She spent the evening crying and begging God in desperation to let her son live. Physically and emotionally exhausted, she finally fell asleep around midnight.

At 1:35 a.m. Caroline’s transplant pager woke her. They had found a potential donor, and the transplant team was working to determine whether, in fact, Cameron was a match. The next morning, through the generosity of friends, Caroline’s family flew to be by her side while surgeons flew to retrieve Cameron’s new lungs. At 4:30 p.m. that same day, Cameron went into the operating room to receive a new chance at life.

Miraculously, at five months old, Cameron left the hospital for the very first time. He remained in Texas for three months of follow-up after his transplant while receiving physical and occupational therapy. Caroline remembers those first precious days outside the hospital:

“At five months old, I took him for his first walk outside. He stared up at the trees blowing in the breeze. He had never seen it before- never even been outside."

“Even now, he loves the smallest things; he appreciates them. He takes nothing for granted, and he’s taught me not to take anything for granted.”

In October, 2009 Cameron finally came home to Florida. He continues to be cared for by Dr. Daniel Garcia, a pulmonologist at Arnold Palmer Hospital who works closely with the transplant team at Texas Children’s to monitor his progress.

Now, at 3 years old, Cameron is thriving. He loves to run and play and do absolutely anything outdoors. He’s happy and filled with excitement over the simple joys of childhood.

Caroline says that he’s taught her to cherish the little things in life. Miracles and all.