Born with stomach OUTSIDE his body, Harrison is a ‘little fighter’


The parents of a Queensland baby boy born with his bowel and stomach outside his body have thanked the medical team at Brisbane’s Mater Mothers’ Hospital for saving their ‘little fighter’ Harrison McLaren.

Harrison was born at Mater Mothers’ Hospital at South Brisbane in November with a rare birth defect, causing a hole in his abdominal wall beside the belly button. Harrison’s stomach and bowels were outside his tiny body, exiting through the defect (hole) in the abdominal wall.

Harrison’s parents Jessica, 31, and Christopher McLaren, 34, were advised by doctors that “nothing could be done during pregnancy”, and Harrison would need surgery within days of being born.

Mrs McLaren, from Stafford Heights, said doctors advised her the survival rate for a child with gastroschisis was more than 90 per cent – but to prepare herself for the possibility of losing her baby as the defect could lead to further complications in life.

She said Mater Mothers’ NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) team were well prepared for Harrison’s delivery which made her feel less anxious about his arrival.

“As Harrison’s bowels and stomach were dilated, surgeons were not able to perform surgery until they were able to fit his organs back inside his body,” she said.

“Surgery happened three days after he was born and was very successful. From here the journey ahead was getting his organs functioning properly and to be able to tolerate milk.”

Holding her son in her arms, Mrs McLaren described her 20-week pregnancy scan as “one I will never forget”.

“At our scan we left leaving thinking everything was OK. It was a couple of days later my GP requested to speak to me urgently and delivered the news over the phone that our baby boy had gastroschisis,” she said.

“After the phone call, I started researching the birth defect and this is when the panic and fear truly set in.

“The images online of gastroschisis are very confronting. I immediately called my husband and we both took the next couple of days off work to process the news.

“All you want and wish for is a healthy baby and to be delivered such news was devasting.”

Of the 10,000 babies born at Mater Mother’s Hospital every year, about 15 babies are admitted for management of gastroschisis.

Mater Director of Neonatology Dr Pita Birch said Mater’s new gastroschisis feeding guidelines to standardise progression of milk feeds had improved outcomes for babies with the birth defect, reducing infection and promoting earlier patient discharge.

Dr Birch said this standard approach in progressing feeds for Harrison contributed to his shorter hospital stay.

Mrs McLaren said baby Harrison, now a thriving eight-month-old, was cared for around-the-clock by a multidisciplinary neonatal intensive care team at Mater Mothers’ in collaboration with the paediatric surgical team from Queensland Children’s Hospital during his almost one-month stay in hospital.

“Having to leave the hospital without Harrison was extremely taxing on my mental health – walking out of those hospital doors without Harry in my arms was an emptiness I have never experienced,” she said.

Mrs McLaren said the care they received at Mater was “beyond anything I could have hoped for”.

“I get extremely emotional thinking about the care I received at the Mater especially the NICU team. The love and care they provide for not only your child but yourself and family is phenomenal,” she said.

“The medical specialists are simply world-class I couldn’t be more thankful for each person that played a role in Harrison’s recovery.

“He is most definitely our miracle. He made the most incredible recovery. To say that Harrison is strong and resilient would be an understatement.”

/Public Release. View in full here.