"Dear Bellabean,
You truly are a miracle in motion. May you always run, jump, laugh and smile your way through life. You are an inspiration to  us all!"
July 24, 2009  Jennifer Taft (NICU Nurse @ CHOP)

Your Subtitle text
 

Isabella, 5 Days old

Isabella Jake Stankunas was born a beautiful, healthy little girl on Tuesday, July 24, 2007.

On Sunday, July 29, 2007 her family noticed that little Bella wasn't quite herself, she felt very warm and after taking her temperature they discovered it was 101.5 degrees. Frantic, her parents immediately rushed her to Abington Memorial Hospital and Bella was admitted for “the summer flu”. Over the course of the next 24 hours Bella's condition deteriorated and she began having seizures. The concerned doctors at Abington decided Bella needed to be immediately transported to the N/IICU at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

Once at CHOP, Bella developed apnea while having constant seizures, and coded.  Bella was placed on a ventilator and doctors and nurses worked for hours to stabilize her. When all else failed, doctors placed Bella in a drug-induced coma to calm the violent shock waves that racked her tiny body. A brain  MRI was performed late on Tuesday, July 31 2007, and while the seizures finally ended, her future would never look the same.  The MRI uncovered  that the white matter in her brain was severely damaged. At that time, Bella was diagnosed with HIE (Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy) a fancy name for "lack of oxygen to the brain". Bella's HIE was believed to be caused by an acute injury during birth. Although the doctors could not fully predict Isabella's future, her family was told Isabella would not develop beyond a 3 month old in physical and cognitive abilities and need constant professional care. Her family was in shock and completely devastated!  After 2 weeks in CHOP, Bella’s family took her home where they began to prepare for her uncertain future.  They began Bella’s long road of multiple daily therapies when Bella was only 6 weeks old.

Bella amazes all who meet her everyday. At 7 years of age, Bella continues to reach her developmental milestones. As a doctor once said upon meeting Bella: “Clearly, she did not read her MRI”.  After intense physical, occupational, and vision therapy, as well as sessions with a neuro-physical therapist and regular follow-ups with her trusted neurologist at Children’s Hospital, Bella walks, runs, talks, plays soccer and basketball and attends 2nd grade in a public school like a typical 7 year old.  Bella's doctors are amazed at her progress and cannot explain it medically. Bella had a second MRI performed in May of 2008 and to everyone’s surprise and disbelief, the images of the damaged areas presented clearer and more extensive then the first MRI at 7 days old.  Doctors are at a loss, but continue to enjoy and be amazed at Bella's baby steps. Isabella is a true medical anomaly, a miracle!

In June 2009 after new research from the Netherlands became available, Bella's diagnosis was changed from HIE to Neonatal Encephalopathy due to viral infection from the parechovirus. Doctors hypothesized that Bella contracted a virus soon after she was born, she did not have a birth injury (parechovirus was not tested on neonates in the US in 2007).   Many doctors are amazed and determined to learn from Bella’s incredible progress and help other children recover the way that she has.

On Bella’s second birthday – July 24, 2009 – in front of her beaming family and a bevy of local reporters, Isabella returned to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. This time, she came to thank the people who saved her life. Little Bella marched through the N/IICU laughing, chattering, handing out gifts to her doctors and nurses and a liberal dose of hugs to all those who wanted them.

Bella’s family’s HOPE from those first moments in CHOP was to be able to give her the best life possible by utilizing all available resources. Bella’s amazing journey has led her family to want to help children diagnosed with a severe brain injury and their families navigate this confusing and costly process.



 
 

Isabella 7 years old
Website Builder