A New Beginning for One Jacksonville Family
GAINESVILLE- Some say it takes a village to raise a child ... well the Gainesville community is coming together to help families from around the world who are being treated at Shands for a rare disease.
TV20's Alex de Armas is here to tell us about one of those families...and the journey to recovery for one very sick baby.
A Jacksonville couple had the same excitement and worries every first-time parent has ... but when life brought them something that wasn't in the books... they're happy the Gainesville community was here to help bring their baby home safely.
"When I saw the x-ray I knew immediatly that this was a terrible problem," said Stephen Pirris, a Jacksonville father.
Stephen Pirris and his wife started their uncertain journey on March 13th, when their baby girl was born.
"And I saw the monitors being hooked up and a lot of work being done," said Pirris.
She was diagnosed with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia, or CHD.
A birth defect where babies are born with a hole in their diaphragm, causing their other organs to move up into their lungs.
"We've just been sitting by her bedside ever since," said Pirris.
Thanks to Stephen's brother and a college friend who had dealt with the same problem, the new mom and dad knew what to do next.
"As nauseatingly and devastating a situation that it was, it was quite emotional, I knew right away where I had to go," said Pirris.
Stephen and baby Elle headed to Gainesville right after she was born to find Dr. David Kays at Shands Hospital for Children.
He is a world- renowned pediatric surgeon specialized in treating babies with CDH.
Elle underwent surgery two days after she was born.
"I've always been interested in what can I do as a doctor to save someone's life," said Dr. David Kays, a pediatric surgeon at Shands Hospital.
Kays' success rate in treating babies like Elle Mackenzie is 92 percent.
This is greater than the 67 percent success rate in the rest of the country.
"We have a tremendous passion about this disease and at a very fundamental level, we believe these babies have what it takes to survive," said Kays. "And having that belief helps you get from non survival to survival."
His passion brings families, like baby Elle's, from all around the world for treatment, from Russia to Jasonsonville.
The family spends most of their time in the hospital, but thanks to the management at The Bartram Apartments they have a home away from home.
"We are involved emotionally with them. When they go home with a healthy baby it's rewarding," said J.D. Hatton, the General Manager at The Bartram Apartments.
The Bartram Apartments donate an apartment for families treated by Dr. Kays.
The team at the apartment complex really wanted to find a way to give back to their community, and this opportunity just knocked on their door.
"The whole experience as I say, as stressful as it is, there are somethings you just can't be thankful enough for," said Pirris.
From the treatment to the apartment, the Pirris's are thankful.
Mostly thankful for having their new baby girl in their arms and doing so well.
And as Easter is a symbol of new beginnings... this family will be heading home in the next few days.
It's a rebirth for this family, in the month of April that just so happens to also be CDH month.
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