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Damien Sotomayor: After a delivery that didn’t go as planned, young Damien is now on track to live a full life

Jessica Sotomayor, U.S. Army Specialist, was supposed to deliver her son Damien at Darnall Medical Center at Fort Hood, where Mrs. Sotomayor lives. But when she showed up with contractions, there was no room. "Everyone else was giving birth that day, so they sent me to Scott & White," she says.

The logistical snafu turned out to be a blessing in disguise after Damien experienced respiratory trauma during the delivery that left him unable to breathe. Mrs. Sotomayor spent many hours in labor, during which time Damien ingested meconium. The sticky substance (which is the newborn’s first feces), coats the lining of the lungs and keeps the infant from breathing normally. Meconium aspiration occurs in fewer than 1 in 2,000 births, and most of the time, doctors can clear the meconium from an infant’s mouth before it is inhaled.

But Damien’s case was complicated.

"Damien was very sick," Mrs. Sotomayor recalls. "I was really hoping for the best—that he’d make it home." Damien spent three days in the Scott & White Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) before doctors took an even more drastic measure. They applied extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) to help Damien’s tiny lungs, which were unable to oxygenate his blood. ECMO is highly sophisticated technology that supports heart and lung function; it’s also used on adults during heart surgery. Scott & White was the only facility between San Antonio and Dallas to offer ECMO when Damien was born.

A month in the NICU

After Damien spent a week on ECMO, Mrs. Sotomayor saw his eyes peep open just a little bit. "The doctors said that after that he started recuperating and doing better every day. I told them maybe Damien was thinking, "Oh man, I’m not in my mom anymore. I’ve got to start breathing on my own," she says with a smile.

Damien spent a little more than a month in the Scott & White NICU. He now visits his pediatric neonatologist Dr Vinayak Govande at Scott & White every two months to make sure he is physically and mentally developing on schedule. Careful follow-up is required after infants have suffered severe trauma like Damien did. At five months, Damien was developing right on track.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

The Children’s Hospital at Scott & White’s pediatric neonatal expertise ranks among the nations top 3 percent for survival rates. The only Level III facility available between Dallas and Austin, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is capable of caring for newborns who are born extremely prematurely or who are critically ill and require surgical intervention or other specialty care.

When time is of the essence, families can feel good knowing that specialty pediatric teams provide ground and air transport for fragile newborns and expectant mothers. Highly specialized technology and neonatal expertise have helped thousands of families bring their infants home to thrive.