Shortly after Julie Wyatt delivered baby Nolan Wyatt on December 15, 2013 in Olympia, she received some startling news. Nolan was diagnosed with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) – a hole in his diaphragm – a potentially life-threatening condition. It was something they didn’t see coming. Typically, CDH can be diagnosed before birth using an ultrasound, but Nolan was a rare exception.

Nolan at Seattle Children's

About 1,600 babies are born with CDH every year in the U.S. These babies need care from a variety of pediatric specialists, including neonatologists, pulmonologists and pediatric surgeons, among others. Some babies born with the condition need to be put on Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO), which is often used to provide life support when a child’s lungs aren’t functioning properly.

Only hours after birth, Nolan was airlifted to Seattle Children’s Hospital, one of the only hospitals in Washington that could offer the specialized pediatric care he needed to survive. Wyatt and her husband, Nick, followed closely behind in their car.

“I couldn’t leave his side,” said Julie Wyatt. “If he was going to Seattle, then I was going to Seattle.”

Stabilization, then surgery

After arriving at Seattle Children’s, Nolan was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). He was stabilized and at three days old underwent surgery to repair his diaphragm.

“Many years ago, the initial thought in treating babies with CDH was that we needed to operate immediately,” said Dr. Kenneth Gow, an attending general pediatric surgeon at Seattle Children’s. “Now, we let them stabilize in the ICU for days, to make sure they don’t present with pulmonary hypertension. When Nolan came in, he was really stable. Essentially, what we needed to do was pull his bowel back from the hole in his chest and into his belly. Then we closed the hole in his diaphragm. His surgery was very smooth with no problems.”

Nolan spent three weeks at Seattle Children’s before being released to go home for the very first time.

“You never think something like this is going to happen to you,” said Wyatt. “We’re so thankful to Seattle Children’s and Dr. Gow. We felt so supported and involved in his care, from day one. We can’t imagine what would have happened if we would have gone to another hospital.”

Crawling toward Disneyland

Today, almost a year later, Nolan is doing incredibly well. He just started crawling and is currently training to compete in the Diaper Dash for crawlers, which is part of the Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend taking place November 14-16 at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif.

Nolan Wyatt 005

“You would never know by looking at Nolan that he was sick,” said Wyatt. “What better way to show how well he’s doing and raise awareness for CDH than have him participate in a race at the Happiest Place on Earth?”

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If you’d like to arrange an interview with the Wyatt family or Dr. Gow, please contact Seattle Children’s PR team at press@seattlechildrens.org or 206-987-7073.