By Sue Tiffin
Baby Hunter is home.
The first baby to be born in 2021 in Haliburton County had quite the start to life after he was born at home in Minden on Jan. 8 to parents Kate-lynn and Scott Boesveld, with support from the Midwifery Services of Haliburton-Bancroft. That went well, but soon after his birth, he was struggling to eat, pass stool and began showing increasing signs of discomfort, leading to a stay at McMaster Children’s Hospital and a diagnosis of Hirschsprung’s disease.
Scott’s family has a genetic history of Hirschsprung’s disease, a disorder in which nerve cells in the intestines called ganglions are absent from part of the bowels at birth, causing muscles an inability to pass stool through the intestines, which can become blocked. During an ultrasound done around
the 18-week mark, though Hunter’s bowels could be seen, it wasn’t possible to rule out Hirschsprung’s as the ganglions couldn’t be seen at that time.
After birth, Kate-lynn said Hunter began gagging on milk, was vomiting and was sleeping more than would be expected of a newborn. Following the guidance of the midwives, and using their own intuition, Kate-lynn and Scott made plans for their daughter with family, and headed to the emergency room at McMaster Children’s Hospital – where Scott’s brothers had been treated for Hirschsprung’s disease as children (Scott was not born with Hirschsprung’s disease).
Kate-lynn said the drive was worrisome, not knowing if Hunter would be sick or feel uncomfortable in that time, so she rode in the backseat next to him.
“Thankfully, he slept the whole way,” she said.
At the hospital, Hunter was admitted quickly, and underwent tests like x-rays and a biopsy. Procedures to empty his stomach of bile began to help relieve his symptoms, which included a distended stomach. He also, at just a few days old, had to undergo a COVID-19 test due to having a symptom of vomiting.
“He was put through the ringer, but he just laid there,” said Kate-lynn. “The only time he would cry was when he had sticky tape put on his skin and pulled off. He honestly did so amazing through it all.”
Due to his discomfort, nurses began doing bowel irrigations every six hours, until Kate-lynn and Scott became comfortable doing it themselves.
“Basically because I wanted to go home so bad, I just took over,” said Kate-lynn, laughing.
Hunter was diagnosed with Hirschsprung’s disease after results from the biopsy showed an absence of ganglion cells. He’ll need surgery in the near future – called a pull-through procedure – to remove part of the intestine and pull through a healthy part so that it functions properly.
“It’s supposed to correct it and I’m glad he won’t remember any of it,” said Kate-lynn.
“They don’t want to promise us anything because of [uncertainty during the pandemic], but as long as his weight increases, they said around March would be best. I’m trying to just get his weight up. They want him big and strong and healthy basically before the surgery so he’s able to, you know, fight it and get through it. Plus his body is so little right now, I can’t imagine them doing surgery on a tiny little thing.”
Within days, Hunter began nursing, and then was off the IV, sleeping and eating on a normal schedule.
“It gives you quite an awareness for those sorts of things, I didn’t really take it into consideration until it’s actually happened to us and the struggles that we could deal with,” said Kate-lynn. “We can go places, but we have to be back for the irrigation, so we just have to plan our life a little bit differently.”
With Kate-lynn and Scott performing irrigations scheduled every six hours, they were able to be released from the hospital, where they appreciated the
support but said a shared room where nurses were regularly in to check vitals, and kids were waking up in pain, made it difficult to rest.
“I basically prayed for each of those children,” said Kate-lynn. “It made me feel blessed … It just put you into someone else’s shoes for a little bit. It was very stressful being in a hospital setting, sleeping in a hard rock chair for days. I’m trying to heal [post-birth], trying to process everything, you’re not allowed to have visits … We had a ton of people praying for us, and we definitely felt that prayer at that time. That’s what got me through. But by Thursday, I had to get out of there, and I told the nurses that, I said, ‘can you put a good word in for me?’ I’ve tried to do these irrigations. I think I got nine hours of sleep in that week, that adds up. And I thought, if I have one more night like that, I’m going to have a meltdown.”
Though her sleep continues to be “all over the place,” Kate-lynn said she is feeling better.
“I’m really trying to take care of myself, and make sure I’m able to be there for my daughter and Hunter,” said Kate-lynn. “I’m great, and Hunter acts like a [typical] baby, he smiles, he’s doing all the baby things, so I’m really happy, because I’m always on edge now. I don’t want something to turn, and he can get sick very quickly. I’m just basking in the cuddles and nursing and all the [typical] baby things I can do right now.”
Kate-lynn said the support from her mother-in-law, in particular, has been invaluable.
“She went through it all, with two of [her five kids],” said Kate-lynn. “She honestly has been amazing through it all. We talked to the surgeon and he said, listen to any of the advice that she has because she did it for so
long. It’s been comforting to know that she has the knowledge, and she’s so helpful, with any questions we have. It’s been very nice to know someone close who has experienced it.”
Surgeries were different back then, and people can be affected differently by Hirschsprung’s disease – one brother-in-law had more than 20 surgeries before he was four years old. Even after surgery, Hunter will need to be mindful of what he eats, and could have a lowered immune system, but
will otherwise be able to live independently.
Though the Boesveld family only recently purchased and moved to Ray’s Place on Hwy 121 in Minden, a community of off-road enthusiasts quickly raised funds online and offline to help support the family with the costs incurred during Hunter’s current hospital stays, and for future medical trips.
“Oh my goodness, it’s unbelievable, I had tears in my eyes, just seeing the amount of support,” Kate-lynn told the Times. “It’s just really awesome to have that support and love from everybody, it’s so great. It shocked me
To help with the costs of traveling back and forth to McMaster Children’s Hospital, a GoFundMe has been set up for their family and is available at https://ca.gofundme.com/f/baby-hunter-needs-our-help.