I'm always amazed by the resilience of babies. These tiny humans look so fragile yet seem to have an endless reserve of fight in them, especially in against-all-odds situations when most of us adults would crumble. Case in point: Russell Dunham, who was born with a rare condition called giant omphalocele, where his liver, stomach, bowel and other organs protrude outside of his body from his belly button. Instead of skin, his umbilical cord has encased the organs and is protecting them.
The condition wasn't a surprise for Russell's parents, Danielle and Jacob Dunham -- they found out that something was amiss with their baby at the very first ultrasound, reports USA Today. Still, that doesn't mean it's been an easy road for the new family. Like other babies with giant omphalocele, Russell underwent immediate and extensive treatment and ended up spending the first five months of his life at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock. Part of that included applying a special cream over the opening to stimulate skin growth, something that Danielle and Jacob may need to continue to do for years. It's a slow process -- accurately dubbed the "paint and wait" method -- but an important one. A few years from now -- once skin is in place -- the little fighter will undergo an operation to slowly move the organs back into his body. Once they're all back where they belong, the opening will be closed. In the meantime, as new skin forms, the new mom and dad have to shield the baby from viruses and germs. Understandably, the new mom admits that she doesn't bring the baby out in public often. "My biggest fear is that it is flu season and he's at risk for the flu and for the respiratory virus that is going around right now," Danielle said in the article. "We wash our hands, we limit visitors."
Though the recovery will be anything but fast, the Dunhams had a reason to smile last week: After five long months in the hospital, doctors finally gave Russell the green light to go home. The baby settled into his new digs on Wednesday, which also happened to be Danielle's 28th birthday. I can't imagine a better gift for the new mom, can you? Welcome home, baby Russell, and best of luck on your road to recovery!
Baby Care Basics: When a Baby Has a Birth Defect
Image of a baby's feet courtesy of Shutterstock