Jake: The littlest patient
To look at Jake today, you’d have no idea how incredible it is that he’s even alive. A dimpled, giggling 16-month-old, he tries to keep up with his older sister — and plays endless rounds of peek-a-boo with his mother and father.
Contrast that with the critically ill threemonth- old who was flown to Ann Arbor from New York in March 2006 on the U-M Survival Flight jet. Throughout the flight, his parents were hoping against hope that what they’d been told was true: that the U-M was the best place for children like Jake.
Their desperate journey was prompted by a doctor at Columbia University, who heard that Jake’s parents had been told their son was too small for surgery. He happened to know the reputation of a team of U-M vascular surgeons, pediatric kidney specialists, interventional radiologists and anesthesiologists who had treated more children like Jake than any group in the world.
All of those children had been born with major blockages of blood vessels near their kidneys, which raised their blood pressure severely. This condition, called pediatric renovascular hypertension, can cause strokes and sudden death — and indeed, Jake had his first cardiac arrest at the age of eight weeks.
What makes this condition even trickier is that the blood vessels must be repaired within months of birth. To operate on such tiny vessels requires precise surgical skill, guided by carefully-made images. It also requires specialized care before, during and after surgery.
Once they arrived at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, the doctors told the family there would only be a few hours when Jake would be healthy enough to withstand surgery. And even then, he might suffer brain damage.
The operation itself took nine hours, and was one of the trickiest ever performed at U-M. But when the lead surgeon came out of the operating room and gave Jake’s parents two thumbs up, they knew the worst was over. Several weeks later, they returned to New York.Jake still has one more operation to go, to open up the blood flow to one of his kidneys. It won’t be easy, and there are always risks. But thanks to his U-M team, he has the best possible chance.