Health Headlines: Saving Sam

Published: Aug. 30, 2022 at 6:31 AM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - One in ten babies is born prematurely, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. It’s the number one cause of death in babies in the US. The little ones that survive often struggle with long-term health problems. But another complication is known as NEC.

Now, doctors are hoping a new breakthrough in the lab may have found what causes it, allowing them to save more lives.

Little two-year-old Sam Luce is right on target, which is amazing considering he was born three months premature.

His dad Ben says, “Sam was born just under two and a half pounds.”

Sam’s mom Maureen explained, “It’s hard to describe the size,” explained Sam’s mom Maureen. “Day four was the first time we ever got to hold him.”

He was suffering from necrotizing enterocolitis or NEC. The condition causes intestinal tissue to die.

Dr. Isabelle De Plaen is a neonatologist with Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and explains, They suddenly develop abdominal distention, feeding intolerance, bloody stool, and they may develop then, signs of shock.”

Doctors are not sure what causes it, but neonatologists at Dr. De Plaen’s hospital have found that decreased development of tiny blood vessels in the intestines could be caused by lower levels of a particular growth hormone. By injecting mice with this grown hormone during an experiment, they were able to stop the infection.

Dr. De Plaen explained, “So, we could find and design therapy that could prevent NEC. So, babies would no longer need to suffer from this disease.”

Just five days after birth, Sam had two inches of his intestine removed. And after 151 days in the NICU, he was finally well enough to go home. Now, he keeps his brother Jack on the run.

“Like, it just blows my mind,” says Maureen. “He has met all of his milestones, developmentally. He’s super social, a loving, fun, stubborn two-year-old.”

Doctors hope these new insights will open the door to developing new treatments that could promote healthy intestine development in premature babies.