Story of survival

Harrison Mattschoss

15 June 2020

Written by Harrison’s mum, Ebony Mattschoss


My pregnancy was a normal pregnancy with no major issues. At my 38-week check-up they noticed my blood pressure was starting to creep up and after having early onset pre-eclampsia with my first son, they decided it was best to book an induction. 


While the induction process wasn’t easy, Harrison was born 7.06pm 15 June 2020. He was put onto my chest but by 6 minutes of life they noticed he was starting to turn mottled in colour and by 12 minutes he was struggling to breathe. He was taken from my arms and put onto oxygen but by 20 minutes of life his stats were deteriorating and they called code blue. 


I went from the euphoria of having my baby in my arms, to a room full medical staff, to then being left lying on the delivery table being stitched up by a doctor. 


My husband, James, went with Harrison and he told me the doctor had a feeling something wasn’t right, more than she initially thought. An x-ray was rushed and James was taken aside and told it was worse than expected. My baby had a condition called Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia. He would need to be transferred to Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital ASAP; it was a matter of life and death.


I finished being stitched up and was able to see my baby, he was gorgeous. I felt like I had failed him before even being given the chance to stuff up motherhood. I talked with the doctor, tears flowing down my face as I watched a team put a breathing tube down my newborn’s throat; trying to get him stable enough to be able to transfer. 


We arrived at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital and were taken to PICU, where Harrison had been transferred. We spoke with a consultant who explained what was going to happen with them moving the breathing tube from his mouth to nose and beginning the process of getting him stable and sedated. We were told to go and give him a kiss and hold his hand as the next time we see him he will have many tubes coming out of him.


We were then taken to a parent’s room where we spent the next 30 minutes talking with Harrison’s surgeon. She filled us with hope, explaining he was doing so well already and showing so much fight but with these conditions you can never be sure of how a baby is going to go. They assumed the fact it was never picked up on my ultrasounds 20 weeks and 34 weeks, that it must be a small defect.


Harrison had surgery on day four of life. The surgery went well, however the defect was lot bigger than the surgeon had expected, with 60% of his diaphragm affected resulting in his bowel, spleen and small intestines in his chest cavity. 


On 21 June Harrison was getting ready to have the breathing tube removed and to be moved out of PICU and to the ward. On the 23rd he was due to be transferred, however, there wasn’t enough space for him in the morning so we stayed put. That afternoon they said they could take him but the surgeon said ‘No’. And thank god she did as the next morning at 5am I was woken to a phone call from one of the consultants saying Harrison was in a very poor condition, the sickest he has seen him since the night he had been brought in and they needed to re-intubate him. 


Many tests were conducted and an x-ray showed his left (little) lung had completely deflated and whitened (filled with fluid) and the right had started to deflate and had some white too. We spent a further two weeks in ICU trying to get the fluid out and his lungs dried out to start the process of getting him ready to have the tube out.


The doctors then discovered a new hernia in Harrison’s groin so he was rushed for emergency surgery the next day to get that taken care of. The surgery on Harrison’s groin was more complicated than expected but he got through the surgery and no permanent damage is suspected. 


After six weeks in the hospital we got to go home and Harrison has thrived since then. We now have annual appointments with Harrison’s surgeon and are currently under the care of neurosurgery for abnormal spacing in his brain which has resulted in an MRI and a follow up appointment early this year. It hasn’t effected Harrison’s development at this stage, which is amazing. 


We were robbed of so many precious moments at the start of his life but gifted the ultimate prize and that’s having him here with us to tell the story.


He already has many scars but I will instil in him to never be ashamed of them. They are proof of how strong he is not a sign of weakness. They are reminders that no matter what he has the strength to get through difficult times because he fought so hard to be here.


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