Alisha Shokes experienced what every mother fears when walking into her 20-week ultrasound: "There's something wrong with your baby." In her case, doctors told the concerned mother that her baby was missing part of his diaphragm, subsequently preventing his lungs from developing properly. With nothing stopping all of his other organs from crowding into his chest, the baby's lung's had no room to grow. A month before he was full-term, the baby boy was born via C-section because he stopped moving in utero. Weighing only four pounds, the complications didn't end there.
Doctors were forced to put baby Ar-mani Shokes on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) because of a congenital diaphragmatic hernia causing issues with his breathing. Putting him on ECMO when he weighed a mere 4 lbs made him the smallest baby to ever be put on ECMO at the Children's Hospital of Georgia because it isn't recommended for babies under 5.5 lbs.
The Augusta Chronicle says that the "hospital officials believe he could [also] be the smallest in state history to receive the procedure". The risk of putting a child so small on ECMO, which essentially serves as an artificial heart and/or lungs, is bleeding in the brain. Dr. Brian Stansfield, the neonatologist for Ar-mani, explains that "you hope to not use ECMO if you can help it [because of the potential for complications, but] we were maxed out for the most part on medical therapy."
According to Dr. Walter Pipkin, the hospital's surgeon-in-chief, Ar-mani was going to die and there weren't many options for saving him. In using ECMO, despite the risks, it was giving Ar-mani time for his body to heal itself. With a tube in his neck and wires hooked up to him, it was a frightening sight for his mother. Ar-mani stayed that way for a month to give his lungs a chance to develop. Pipkin also created a mesh-fabric diaphragm for Ar-mani to act as a barrier for his organs so his lungs could develop more.
Now, Ar-mani is a happy baby with a full head of hair and big, chubby cheeks, The Augusta Chronicle reports. Still in the neonatal intensive care unit, the little fighter now weighs 9 pounds, 10 ounces and is on the mend. His mother hopes to be able to take him home sometime this month as long as he continues to progress as he has been.