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Baby Blue Eyes

An early September morning at the Meadows Golf Course in Moorhead, Minn. Corey Herlickson, PGA golf pro, assisted golfers while his wife, Stacey, managed the restaurant. Neither could stop thinking about their upcoming appointment: the 20-week ultrasound.

"We were ridiculously excited about being pregnant and couldn’t wait to find out what we were having," recalls Stacey. "But that day we found out a little more than expected."

The ultrasound revealed a boy – plus a serious problem. A short time later, they were able to meet with Dr. Peter Van Eerden, Sanford maternal fetal medicine specialist.

"I remember crying on the elevator on our way to see him," says Stacey. "I kept telling myself pull it together, pull it together. But then I’d look at Corey’s watery eyes and lose it."

Says Corey: "My main concern was Stacey. I knew my job at that point was to comfort and support her the best I could."

Serious – but treatable

Dr. Van Eerden explained their baby’s condition: an abdominal wall defect called gastroschisis. It occurs in about one in 5,000 births.

In normal fetal development, the abdominal organs are enclosed in the abdomen before birth. In gastroschisis, the intestines remain outside. Surgery immediately after birth is required to correct the problem.

"We’d never heard of gastroschisis, but we really got educated. We had so many questions," says Corey. "By the time we left, we knew exactly what was involved and we had the timetable. It calmed us to know the resources needed would be readily available."

Peace came from other sources, too – prayer, family and friends, and their shared approach to life. "We’re laid back people," says Corey. "We go with the circumstances we’re given and try to have fun along the way." Adds Stacy: "It’s hard not to worry, but worry doesn’t solve problems."

Following the plan

Over the next four months, Corey and Stacey followed every step of the well-coordinated plan:

  • Frequent ultrasounds.
  • Periodic checkups with Dr. Van Eerden and his partner Dr. Jeffrey Boyle.
  • Ongoing prenatal care with Dr. Thomas Herzog, their obstetrician-gynecologist from the beginning.

They knew what to expect:

  • An early delivery – likely 37 to 38 weeks rather than full-term.
  • Lifesaving surgery immediately after birth.
  • Hospitalization of their baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), typically four to six weeks.

A month before delivery Corey and Stacey met Dr. Jon Ryckman, one of two Sanford pediatric surgeons. He visited with them for 45 minutes, explaining the surgery and answering their questions. Dr. Ryckman remembers them well: "Very dedicated parents and willing to do whatever was needed for the health of their baby. They were fantastic."

On Dec. 18, at Sanford Sioux Falls USD Medical Center, Isaac Michael Herlickson entered the world weighing 5 pounds, 2 ounces. All went as planned – except the hospitalization. "In gastroschisis, the recovery can be the most challenging aspect, but we’re prepared for that," says Dr. Ryckman. "Isaac did really, really well and was able to go home in just 16 days."

The best medicine

A sunny, breezy afternoon in the middle of June – no better time for blowing bubbles. Healthy and growing, Isaac watches them float by, shimmering in the sunlight. But they’re no match for his sparkling blue eyes. They open wide as he reaches out, then pop! He giggles.

And why the name Isaac? "We went through a thousand names and it’s the only one we agreed on," says Stacey. "Isaac means laughter … and it fits him just perfectly."

Learn more about Sanford Children's.

Posted Date: January 2011