Chaya Perlman started worrying about her baby’s health when she was 20 weeks pregnant. That’s when she found out her little one, Chaim, had Down syndrome and a hole in the center of his heart (complete atrioventricular canal defect, CACD). What she didn’t know was that those health concerns wouldn’t be the biggest issue when Chaim was born.
It wasn’t until after delivery, when he was in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Maimonides Children’s Hospital, that a tracheoesophageal fistula (TEF) was discovered. Chaim’s trachea and esophagus were abnormally formed and connected. This dangerous birth defect meant milk couldn’t make its way to Chaim’s stomach and that saliva could leak into his lungs, leading to respiratory distress and lung damage. He urgently needed surgery.
“I will forever be grateful to Maimonides’ NICU for taking care of my son just like their own child,” says Mrs. Perlman. Dr. Daniel Hechtman, Director of Pediatric Surgery at the Maimonides Children’s Hospital, had a clear plan on how to move forward. At four days old, Chaim underwent surgery and stayed in the hospital for two more weeks to recover.
“The nurses in the NICU were extremely nice, giving me updates and answering every one of my questions and concerns,” Mrs. Perlman remembers. “I felt as if I left my child with family when I went home to recuperate after my C-section. He was in the safest place he could be.”
Maimonides is the only children’s hospital in Brooklyn. Its expert team of pediatric specialists and surgeons staff a pediatric ICU and trauma center, perinatal center for premature babies, and a dedicated pediatric emergency department.
Chaim’s surgery was a success, but he continued to have other health struggles after discharge that landed him in the pediatric emergency room twice. During his second visit for breathing difficulty, he briefly went into cardiac arrest. “I remember all the doctors — including Dr. Hechtman and those from the NICU — came running because, by now, everybody knew him,” recalls Mrs. Perlman. “They brought him back after a minute and a half of CPR and cared for him in the NICU.”
Chaim is three years old now and a lovable tot. The hole in his heart has been surgically fixed and he’s busy learning about the world around him. He enjoys spending time with his big brother and now, he will have a younger sibling to play with too. “I’m due in August with my third child and there’s no question that we’re going back to Maimonides,” says Mrs. Perlman. “I always say that no one should have a child in the NICU because all babies should be born healthy and be able to go home with their mommies. But if your child does need to be in the NICU, Maimonides is where you want to be.”