Special delivery unit at CHOP

January 18, 2009 9:52:31 AM PST
The excitement of the birth of a baby can be significantly dampened when there's a birth defect. But, a unique unit at one Philadelphia hospital is helping parents cope with what can be a challenging situation.

Little Vincenzo Distasio is just 4 months old.

But he's been through a lot, starting even before he was born.

Kate Distasio, his mother, remembers, "I had gone for an ultrasound just for genetic testing, and they brought a doctor in and he said that it looks like the bowel isn't in the body yet"

His intestines were pushing out of a hole in his abdomen, a defect that needed an emergency surgical repair right after birth.

Kate says, "We both just were, you know, very scared and didn't know what to expect."

Fortunately, the Distasios, who live in South Orange, New Jersey, heard about the Special Delivery unit at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia - the world's fist birthing facility strictly for moms carrying babies with defects.

Dr. Holly Hedrick, who heads the unit, says, "It's really for known entities, known birth defects. We plan for the delivery, the team is here that needs to be here."

Mothers give birth near operating rooms and intensive care units where specialists are at the ready.

Dr. Hedrick explains, "A baby with a birth defect can do something they're not supposed to do, and you have to be able to turn on a heel and take care of it."

The unit works to help parents bone with their babies as soon as possible.

Dr. Hedrick says, "There's a lot of focus on trying to normalize the situation that, in many cases, has really been a devastating one for people."

That intense care has given Vincenzo's life a good beginning.

Don Distasio, Vincenzo's father, says, "It started out, I would say, almost as a nightmare, and it actually ended up probably being one of the most positive experiences that i've ever had.

Although the unit is here in Philadelphia, it is open to any pregnant woman willing to come here for the treatment.