EXCLUSIVE: Mequon baby defies odds after high-risk fetal surgery
MEQUON (WITI) — A baby boy in Mequon has defied the odds stacked against him before he was even born!
To Elijah Leffingwell, the world must seem a strange place. At his home in Mequon, his days revolve around feeding and changing, though not the kind most parents would recognize.
Jason Leffingwell prepares Elijah’s meal: formula poured into a continuous feed that attaches to his son’s stomach. And it’s not just Elijah’s diapers that need changing.
Elijah’s parents peel bandages off his tiny body to clean around his G-tube. Through it all, Elijah never cries.
Doctors gave little Elijah only a 50% chance of survival.
April Leffingwell’s first 20-week ultrasound first revealed a macro-cyst.
“Thousands of tiny little cysts all the way around the lower left lobe of his lung,” said Jason Leffingwell.
“It was so scary. I didn’t understand. Why me? I didn’t think it was fair,” April Leffingwell said.
So began the Leffingwell’s journey to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where they met fetal surgeon Dr. Scott Adzick.
Dr. Adzick had video taken of little Elijah’s surgery — a complex, high-risk operation that required taking Elijah partly out of his mother’s womb just halfway through her pregnancy. Dr. Adzick then removed a mass the size of an orange from Elijah’s lung.
“The mass in the chest is huge and it’s just totally crushing the heart and putting the baby into heart failure,” Dr. Adzick said.
At one point, Elijah’s heart, then the size of a dime, stopped.
“I massaged the heart for awhile to bring the fetus back,” Dr. Adzick said.
Elijah returned to his mother’s womb, and two months later, he was born premature in Philadelphia.
“It was very emotional and very sad because I literally saw him for five seconds,” April Leffingwell said.
Doctors whisked Elijah away, and he then spent nine days on life support undergoing more surgeries. Nine weeks after his birth, the Leffingwells finally took their son home to Wisconsin.
Elijah met his grandmother and got his first kiss from sister Elliana.
The Leffingwell’s church threw a benefit concert in Elijah’s honor. The family had a lot to give thanks for.
“After going through his journey, now I feel more that I am blessed to be chosen to go through this situation because I can teach other people and help other families and you know, share his story,” April Leffingwell said.
Elijah is 14 weeks old, and his parents say he is doing as well as they could hope.
The cost of all of Elijah’s medical treatment is over $1 million. The family has a fund set up at Associated Bank. Donors should ask for “The Elijah Leffingwell Fund,” through Bethany Reformed Church in Sheboygan.