October 31, 2018
From the NICU to neurosurgery to speech therapy – this 5-year-old boy found all the ingredients he needed to thrive
In May 2013, when Danielle Fernandes was 26 weeks pregnant with twins, she started experiencing contractions. Doctors at Jersey Shore University Medical Center tried to stop her labor from progressing, however, her water broke.
She delivered twin boys, Parker and Max, who were immediately taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital at Jersey Shore. As a Level III NICU, it’s equipped to provide comprehensive care for premature infants like Parker and Max.
Due to his prematurity, Parker developed several complications. When he was just 2 months old, Thomas Steineke, M.D., a pediatric neurologic surgeon at Jersey Shore, performed a procedure for hydrocephalus to remove fluid from Parker’s brain. Since then, he has also experienced severe acid reflux, cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder and a lung disease that causes lifelong breathing difficulties.
Despite facing a long list of health challenges, Parker thankfully had access to state-of-the-art care from a multidisciplinary team of experts at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital as well as constant encouragement from his family.
ONGOING CARE FROM BIRTH
“Parker continues to impress everyone with his progress,” says Richard Sultan, D.O., director of pediatric neurology at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital and part of The Neuroscience Institute at Jersey Shore, who’s treated Parker since he was in the NICU. “Thanks to the treatments he’s received since birth, his cognitive abilities are completely age-appropriate and with the help of different modes of therapy, his motor weaknesses due to cerebral palsy have improved.” Dr. Sultan also works closely with Parker to find the optimal medications and doses for managing his seizures.
“Dr. Sultan is an excellent doctor who always puts Parker’s needs first,” says Danielle. “He makes us feel like friends or family members because of how much he cares.”
THERAPIES THAT MAKE A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE
When Parker was just a few months old, he started seeing Beth Loveridge-Lenza, D.O., a pediatric gastroenterologist at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital. She worked with Parker to address his acid reflux, which affected his ability to gain weight. She also referred them to Josi Shimkus, CCC-SLP, supervisor of Speech Therapy and a feeding specialist at The Children’s Hospital.
“When he turned 1, he couldn’t eat solid foods,” Danielle says. “Anything with texture caused him to gag and vomit.” Through feeding therapy, Josi gradually introduced Parker to different textures and helped him develop the skills he needed for chewing and swallowing solids. “It was like a miracle,” Danielle says. “We saw Josi every week for a year. She’d work with him and then give us homework to continue helping him at home. Little by little, he started to be able to eat more foods.”
When Parker turned 2 years old, he no longer required feeding therapy and transitioned to working with Josi for speech therapy. She’s helped him grow his vocabulary, improve his articulation, and develop his ability to form phrases and sentences.
“It’s remarkable what Parker has been able to accomplish,” Josi says. “His progress is largely due to his family. They take our recommendations and follow through with them every single day. They’ve supported him, guided him and given him every opportunity to go as far as he can go.”
A BRIGHT FUTURE
Today, Parker is an active 5-year-old. This September, he started kindergarten. “He loves to ride his bike, play soccer, swim and be goofy with his brother,” Danielle says. “When he was born, we were so worried about his future. But because of all the services he’s received, he’s done better than anyone could’ve imagined. Having everything right here at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital has made it so easy and convenient for us to make sure he receives everything he needs to thrive.”
THE LATEST, SAFEST TREATMENT OPTIONS
The pediatric neurosurgery program at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital is the most comprehensive in the region. Our experienced team provides a wide range of advanced treatment options that offer hope to children who suffer from brain and spinal cord conditions. Whether a child is facing a common disorder or a rare condition, we provide the latest and safest therapies. Learn more at KHovnanianChildrensHospital.com.