Amelia gains appetite after battle

Baby Amelia Pierce and her mum Jenny Sutherland. Amelia was born with oesophageal atresia.
Baby Amelia Pierce and her mum Jenny Sutherland. Amelia was born with oesophageal atresia. Nicola Brander

AMELIA Pierce's parents waited five months to properly admire her sweet face.

The youngster was born with oesophageal atresia, a congenital condition which means that that the oesophagus does not properly join the stomach.

Amelia needed surgery at birth to insert a feeding tube directly into her stomach.

She also needed a tube in her mouth to drain saliva so that she did not choke.

At five months, she had further surgery to join her oesophagus and stomach which meant she could do away with the mouth tube.

It also meant that her parents, Jenny Sutherland and David Pierce, had a new daughter.

"As soon as they did the surgery, they took the tubes out. We'd never seen her face without a tube in it," Ms Sutherland said.

After spending her first five months in the Mater Children's Hospital in Brisbane, Amelia came home to Buderim where she continues to thrive.

She still receives formula through the gastrostomy tube to her stomach but is starting to experiment with food, showing a liking for chocolate custard, watermelon and Weet-Bix.

Mrs Sutherland has been told that could take up to two years for Amelia to eat and drink properly but she and her husband hope that she will be ready to eat her first birthday cake in five months time.

"She's showing more interest in food and touching things to her mouth," Mrs Sutherland said.

Mrs Sutherland said oesophageal atresia could affect children in different and multiple ways.

"We were very lucky that she only needed the two surgeries and, touch wood, she won't need any more," she said.

She said Amelia might have to eat slower and drink more water but she would otherwise be no different from any other child.

"I just want people to know that if something like this gets diagnosed in their family, it's not the worst thing," she said.

"If someone says there's going to be a baby in the family with oesophageal atresia, it's not that bad. The babies will grow and they will come to be just like every body else. It's a lot of hard work for the first couple of years but then everything will be all right."


Oesophageal atresia:

  • Affects about one in 4425 babies.
  • Occurs around 3-4 weeks gestation. Cause unknown.
  • Represents the failure of the oesophagus to develop as a continuous passage.
  • Comes in multiple configurations. Often, it is accompanied by tracheo-oesphageal fistula, where there is an abnormal opening between the trachea and oesophagus.
  • First signs can be an unusual amount of amniotic fluid while the mother is still pregnant.
  • The first signs at birth can be excessive drooling, coughing, choking and sneezing because the baby cannot swallow properly.

Topics:  health surgery

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