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Benefit To Help Family After Child Born With Defect

Rebecca Emple of Warren visits with her newborn son, Noah Lauffenberger, after he underwent surgery to move his intestines from outside his body to inside at the NICU at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Submitted photo

WARREN, Pa. — Noah Lauffenberger went into surgery on his birthday.

He was born with gastroschisis — a condition that caused him to undergo surgery immediately after birth and will keep him in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh for months.

Noah’s intestines were outside of his body when he was born on April 6. He was six weeks early. He was 4 pounds, 15 ounces and 17-and-a-half inches.

“He’s doing all right,” his mother, Rebecca Emple, said this week. “The surgery on his intestines went well.”

That surgery successfully moved his intestines to the inside of his body.

Elijah Lauffenberger of Warren visits with his newborn son, Noah Lauffenberger, at the NICU at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Submitted photo

“Right now, he’s in a good position,” Noah’s father, Elijah Lauffenberger said. “He had the surgery and they put it all in the first day. It’s so-far-so-good.”

Noah was also born with a clubfoot — his right foot is turned inward and upward. For now, it looks like he won’t need surgery to repair that, but it is possible, Elijah said.

Gastroschisis sounds gruesome, but it’s not exceedingly rare. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in 1,871 babies is born with the condition to some degree. And, it’s not particularly hard to treat.

To Noah’s parents, gastroschisis was the best of some very bad options.

When doctors told Rebecca her alpha fetoprotein level was high, they listed several possible outcomes.

An elevated AFP can indicate a neural tube defect of the brain, skull, or spine.

Noah had none of those.

“When we heard it was gastroschisis and it could be fixed by a surgery, we were kind of relieved,” Elijah said.

Noah dodged some other conditions that doctors said can go along with the elevated AFP problems.

“They told us there was a good chance he would have a cleft lip or a cleft palate,” Elijah said. “He does not have those.”

Gastroschisis has caused havoc with Noah’s ability to eat and that will keep him in the NICU.

“He’s being fed by a PICC-line,” Elijah said. “They’re waiting for his intestines to start working. They said it can take 30 to 100-plus days.”

“He throws in little scares now and then,” Elijah said. “A couple days ago he had a fever and really high heart rate.”

Those cleared up and Noah is doing very well. His mother is recovering well from the C-section.

Still, the family is spending Noah’s first weeks to months in a hospital hours from home.

Rebecca plans to stay with Noah as long as it takes, but Elijah said he will have to return to work soon.

Even before the family knew they were on the road to being healthy, a community resource started looking out for the financial well-being.

Hessel Valley Lutheran Church in Chandlers Valley has set up a benefit drive-through spaghetti dinner for 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 23.

“We just got a call from them,” Elijah said. “It caught us off-guard.”

Surprised, but thankful.

With Noah past the worst of the gastroschisis, “the biggest problem for anybody with a baby in the NICU is finances,” he said.

In addition to the dinner, the church is accepting donations on the family’s behalf at Hessel Valley Luther Church, 166 Hessel Valley Road, Chandlers Valley, PA, 16312. Checks may be made out to the church with ‘Noah’ in the memo line. “All proceeds collected will go to the family.”

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