Warning: There is an image of a human stomach in this post. In case you’re squeamish.
When Dr. S first told me that my 11-day-old son was going to have to have surgery to have a tube inserted into his stomach, I was appalled. I asked her if she would elect for the surgery if it was her own child. She said she absolutely would. If Jacob were to enter a state of hyperammonemia, the only way we could get him life-saving medicine before arriving at the hospital would be to inject it directly into his stomach. Okay, I said, that makes sense, in case of emergency.
I demanded to talk to the surgical team and learn everything I could about the surgery and the gastric tube itself. Our surgeon, Dr. R, was informative and patient, which inspired confidence. The surgeon goes in through the child’s bellybutton with a camera, finds the stomach, and inserts the tube to the stomach and out through the abdominal wall. Sometimes they stitch the stomach to the lining of the abdominal wall, as they did for Jacob. You can see his stomach in the top right image below. The abdominal wall is above it.
As it turns out, having direct access to your child’s stomach is incredibly convenient. I bet some parents are jealous that I can do the following:
1. Baby swallowed too much air and is fussing but refuses to burp? Grab a syringe and pull the excess air out of his stomach. Voila! Happy baby.
2. Administer medications directly into his stomach. Now, not every baby takes a nasty-tasting (yes, I tried it) medicine every 8 hours. But ever try to give a baby medicine drops like poly-vi-sol? Not fun.
Jacob has a mic-key button, which gives you access to the tube that goes into his stomach. It sits to the right of his belly button. You can see it in the photo of him right after his bath (left). The diagram on the bottom right is a view of the mic-key button from the side. There are two ports. We use the feeding port, which is on the top. The balloon port inflates, you guessed it, the balloon which is located inside his stomach. This keeps the mic-key button from falling out. When we aren’t using it (most of the time), the port cover sits inside the hole to the tube. Jacob doesn’t even seem to know it’s there. He does grab at it like he grabs at anything you put near his hands. One day he’s going to pull it out and Mommy is going to have to put it back in. The surgeon sent me home with detailed instructions that I hope I don’t have to use just yet.
Jacob will have the tube until he is old enough to decide whether he wants to keep it or not. Can someone tell me when children are ready to make educated decisions that they won’t regret? For me, it was somewhere in the vicinity of 27. At least, so I think, but I’m only 29. Ask me again in ten years.