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Paul Philip's story   — Glenn and Rachel Sprague, AZ, USA

“Group B Strep is a vicious organism.” Those words will forever echo in my head. They were spoken to me by a neonatologist at Tucson Medical Center on November 17, 2000. I was sitting at the bedside of my newborn baby boy, Paul Philip, as he struggled for life. Paul was born on Wednesday, November 15, at Northwest Women’s Center in Tucson. My labor had been induced at 36 weeks due to pregnancy-induced hypertension. A neonatologist, Dr. James, was present for the birth since my pregnancy was not full-term. Immediately after Paul was born, Dr. James knew that something was seriously wrong. Paul could not breathe, and he was grunting loudly. Dr. James quickly “bagged” him with oxygen, but it did not help and Paul had to be intubated there in the birthing room. By the time he was one hour old, little Paul was on ventilator to keep his blood oxygenated and had a central line through his umbilical cord for antibiotics. He also had a tube inserted into his lungs to inject surfactant, which allows the lungs to expand without sticking together. Paul’s lung x-rays looked terrible. There should have been black color to represent air in the lungs, but Paul’s lungs looked nearly solid white. The decision was made to transport Paul to the Tucson Medical Center Newborn Intensive Care Unit by ambulance. Later that day, we learned that Paul had a Group B streptococcus lung infection, or “GBS pneumonia.” His condition was grave, and the doctors were not certain if he would survive. The next few days were a roller coaster, and Paul hit his lowest point on Friday, two days after he was born. A neonatologist at TMC called me at 5am. I had only been home from the hospital for a few hours, but Paul had suddenly worsened, and we were asked to return. The doctors explained to us how the Group B streptococcus bacteria was attacking Paul’s body, and they said he was at risk of developing a secondary meningitis infection or sepsis. Paul was relying solely on the ventilator to breathe, whereas before he was doing a little bit of the work on his own. His oxygen saturation had dipped into the 80s several times when it should have been 98 to 100 percent. He was receiving the maximum dosage of ampicillin and gentamycin, a powerful antibiotic combination. He was also under bilirubin reduction lights continuously for a critical case of jaundice (symptom of liver immaturity) that had developed overnight. My husband and I called our families and our pastor, and prayer chains were started all over the country for Paul. On a day when it seemed hope was lost, we saw a real miracle firsthand. Paul very suddenly began improving, so his life support settings were lowered. By the next morning, Paul was off of the ventilator completely and had only a nasal canula and an IV. By the next night, Paul was breastfeeding like a champ and was breathing mostly room air. His neonatologists were baffled, and one explained Paul’s sudden recovery by saying, “God must have something bigger in store for his life.” Though we were told Paul would possibly never come home from the NICU, he was released in perfect health just a week after being born. It was the day before Thanksgiving. We are incredibly blessed to have Paul Philip in our lives. He fell into a serious risk group since I had not received antibiotics during labor, he had early-onset Group B Strep disease, and he was preterm. The only lasting effect from Paul’s Group B strep disease is asthma, and that is well-controlled with medication. Before Paul Philip was born, I had never heard of Group B streptococcus bacteria. A woman generally assumes that a normal pregnancy will have a positive outcome. I learned in November of 2000 that Group B Streptococcus is no respecter of persons. I know now how deadly it is, and I am thankful that this terrible disease is finally getting the publicity and research it deserves.

Copyright 1999-2004 Jesse Cause Foundation