Aric and Megan Mompher struggled to start a family for three years before daughter Ava, now 6, was born. Maci, age 4, followed just a few years later. So when the couple found out they were expecting another child, this time a boy, they were thrilled.
Their hearts sank at a regular check-up when they were told that their baby boy, Blake, would be born with myelomeningocele, the most common and severe type of spina bifida. Spina bifida is a neurological condition that can cause a portion of the spinal cord and the surrounding structures to develop outside, instead of inside, the body. Babies with spina bifida usually need complex, lifelong care. “I have never been as scared in my life as the moment when I found out my unborn son had spina bifida. Blake’s future was unknown and my husband and I had no idea what to expect,” says Megan.
Care for babies like Blake, with complex conditions, is carefully planned out months in advance. It’s part of a team approach that spans multiple specialties — from doctors to nurses to social work — ensuring these babies get the very best care possible at every stage of their journey.
After receiving Blake’s diagnosis through the Ohio Fetal Medicine Collaborative, the Momphers were connected with experts at Nationwide Children’s, including a nurse coordinator who helped them prepare. Becky Corbitt, RN, nurse coordinator, began working with the Momphers shortly after Blake was diagnosed. “My role as the Fetal Medicine nurse coordinator is to support families during pregnancy and answer questions and concerns about the baby’s condition,” says Becky. “I work closely with high-risk physicians at our partnering adult hospitals and pediatric specialists at Nationwide Children’s to help prepare and educate families so they know what to expect after delivery. The goal is for families to experience a seamless transition from pregnancy to newborn care.”
After meeting the care team that would help safely deliver Blake, Megan shares, “I felt like this was something we could overcome. We still had a lot of questions. But we left feeling hopeful.”
Blake was born via a scheduled C-section on September 11, 2013. After his delivery, Blake was immediately transported to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Nationwide Children’s. Our transport team, which includes registered nurses (RNs), respiratory therapists, paramedics or transport technicians (all EMT-P certified) and EMT drivers — all specially trained in pediatrics — is a critical part of that care.
“With each and every transport, we are in constant communication with the patient’s medical team at Nationwide Children’s,” says Brad Childers, RRT, BS, a respiratory therapist with the Transport team who helped transport Blake from Riverside Methodist Hospital, where he was born, to Nationwide Children’s. “They know exactly what to expect and when to expect us. Along the way, we provide our patients with anything they may need so that the transfer of care is smooth and seamless.”
At just one day old, Blake underwent surgery to repair the lesion on his back. And just three days after his first surgery, Blake had shunt surgery, a common procedure for babies with spina bifida, to allow for drainage of spinal fluid that often accumulates.
After 19 days in the NICU, Megan and Aric got to take Blake home. “The nurses and doctors treated Blake like their own kid. The nurses were really encouraging as far as us being involved in Blake’s care and being more hands-on,” says Aric.
The Momphers return to Nationwide Children’s for follow-up appointments in the Myelomeningocele Clinic, which includes visits with a developmental pediatrician, a urologist, an orthopedist, a neurosurgeon, an occupational/physical therapist and other services, as needed. This multi-team approach delivers coordinated care with the expertise of multiple specialties, all working together to benefit our patients and their families. “The great thing about the clinic is that families can see multiple specialists, all in one day. For many of our patient families who travel from beyond central Ohio, it’s easier than coming in on multiple days for multiple appointments. And while they’re here, they can meet and interact with other families,” shares Margaret Carey is a service coordinator in the Myelomeningocele Clinic where Blake is seen. “The best part of my job is watching our patients grow and watching families develop and overcome challenges.”
The Momphers Today
Just a year after the Momphers received the life-changing news that their unborn baby would be born with spina bifida, Megan and Aric are optimistic about what the future holds for their family. Today, Blake is a happy, growing 3 year-old.
“As I got to know Blake’s doctors and nurses before his birth, I knew we were in good hands. But once Blake arrived, his team exceeded every one of our expectations. From the transport team who brought him to Nationwide Children’s just hours after his birth, to the surgeons, doctors and nurses who took care of him through his 19-day NICU stay. Even the folks who cleaned Blake’s room did everything in their power to make sure we were comfortable. We are incredibly grateful,” says Megan.
Watch Blake’s Journey Home and follow the Mompher’s journey from diagnosis in utero to Blake’s homecoming below.
Follow the Momphers as they continue to share their journey. Visit their Team Blake page on facebook.