Ashish, Aarev and Sony

Ashish, Aarav and Sonia

“Babies aren’t born with operating manuals, but at Mt. Washington we got one ...”

– Ashish,  father

The “operating manual” the family received at Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital came about three weeks after distressing circumstances accompanying the birth of their first child, a boy named Aarav.

The first thing the parents noticed – right after Dad cut the umbilical cord - was that Aarav wasn’t crying.

And then, seconds after the brief delivery, first-time father Ashish exclaimed, “The baby is blue.”

Just a few minutes old, Aarav was whisked away by the obstetrician at the community hospital near their Westminster home, his parents left to wonder what had gone wrong.

“Our beautiful son was born with what we later found out is Pierre Robin Sequence -- a triad of a small, recessed chin, tongue obstruction, and internal cleft palette,” said Sonia, an elementary school teacher of reading and writing.

“His jaw was recessed too far back for him to breathe,” said Ashish, who underwrites commercial real estate.

At ten days old – after surgery in Baltimore to extend the infant’s jaw, one of several the seven-month old has had - Aarav arrived at Mt. Washington, to learn to eat and gain weight. In late October, he underwent surgery to lengthen his jaw and then returned to Mt. Washington’s to work on feeding.

The things that most folks do without thinking, Aarav had to be taught.

“He learned to suck, swallow and breathe,” said Sonia. “He took to the bottle perfectly.”

One of the child’s therapists for feeding is Dale Swartos, whom the family credits with getting their son to eat with a specially designed bottle nipple – called a “Pigeon Nipple” - for infants with cleft palates.

“I was so impressed that Dale got him to eat!” said Ashish. “Dale did it and then taught Sonia and Sonia taught me.”

Swartos was on a team working with Aarav that included Dr. Monique Satpute and Nurse Jennifer Wilson, CNNP.

“As a new Mom I was nervous and scared and unsure of this journey we were on as a family. Mt. Washington was the right environment for our son and us as a family coping with all of these unexpected events,” said Sonia.  “We felt they were every bit as invested as we were to make sure Aarav could feed and develop as an infant should.”

The Mt. Washington staff wasn’t just on hand for medical advice but the human touch as well in the three months that Aarav lived on campus.

“I cried many times driving home each evening knowing that he was separated from his Mommy and Daddy before he came home just before Thanksgiving,” said Sonia. “At times when I wasn’t strong I knew I could turn to some of his nurses and his medical team for emotional support.”

Sonia and Ashish bring Aarav back to Mt. Washington every few weeks or so for updates with Dale Swartos as the feeding procedures follow the child’s physical development. This November, about a year after being released from Mt. Washington, Aarav will have surgery to repair his cleft palate.

Depending on what the plastic surgeon recommends, Aarav may return to Mt. Washington for further therapy, the place, Sonia said, “with the dedicated team focused on his well-being.”

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