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VIDEO: Here Comes the Bride, Right Down the Halls of St. Chris

March 24, 2014

Couple Weds in Front of Their Newborn Son in NICU at St. Christopher’s

On Thursday, March 20, Amber Brunell married the man of her dreams in front of the most important little boy in their life. The vows, attire, pastor and even flowers were traditional, but what makes this wedding unique was the setting. Brunell, 23, from Bangor, PA, married Joshua Fox, 24, from Tatamy, PA, in front of their one-month-old son, Lucas, in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, located at 3601 A Street in Philadelphia.

About Baby Lucas Fox

Lucas Fox was born at nine pounds, eleven ounces and 21 inches on February 21, 2014 at St. Luke’s Hospital-Bethlehem Campus. Brunell says he was born healthy and went to the newborn nursery. “All of the sudden, Lucas began crying and then wouldn’t eat,” says Brunell. “When he started throwing up, we became scared.” According to Suzanne Touch, MD, Attending Neonatologist at St. Christopher’s and Interim Medical Director at St. Luke’s, earlier in the pregnancy, an ultrasound had revealed concerns that were communicated to the parents and the neonatal and pediatric teams in anticipation of the delivery.

“After Lucas was born, he went to the newborn nursery as a ‘well-appearing infant’ under the watchful eye of both the pediatric and neonatal teams, with the hopes that the concerns from the ultrasound had been resolved,” says Dr. Touch. “When Lucas began showing signs and symptoms for a possible abdominal problem, he was transferred to the NICU for further evaluation.” Shortly after, it was suggested to the parents that Lucas be transported to St. Christopher’s, where he could be evaluated by the St. Christopher’s surgical team. St. Christopher’s Critical Care Transport Team transported Lucas from St. Luke’s to St. Christopher’s Level IV NICU on February 23 at 3:30 a.m.

When Lucas arrived, the surgical team at St. Christopher’s determined that he had jejunal atresia, and would need surgery to remove the obstruction in his intestines. The repair was performed by Matthew Moront, MD, Attending Surgeon at St. Christopher’s.

According to Jane McGowan, MD, Attending Neonatologist and Medical Director of the NICU at St. Christopher’s, the surgery went well. However, over the next 24 hours Lucas developed problems with his lungs. First, an air leak from his left lung was detected, and the air was drained via a tube placed in his chest. This improved his breathing temporatily, but the team taking care of Lucas noticed that his oxygen level was not increasing as expectd. Dr. McGowan says that the ventilator was adjusted to improve his breathing, but when that wasn’t working, the team decided he needed to be placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). This is a procedure that provides prolonged respiratory and cardiac support to patients with whose lungs and/or heart are not working.

“Because Lucas’ heart was pumping so hard to provide oxygen to his lungs, we knew we had to get him on ECMO quickly in order to keep his heart from failing,” says Dr. McGowan. “Within a few days, his condition improved and we began the reverse process to get him off of ECMO. It went very smoothly – he was on ECMO at St. Chris for about a week.” The ECMO program at St. Christopher’s has been in place since 2001. As one of the few pediatric hospitals to provide ECMO in the region, St. Christopher’s ECMO program has received national recognition and has been awarded the “Excellence in Life Support Award” from the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO), an international consortium of centers offering ECMO for support of failing organ systems in infants, children and adults.

“We didn’t know that Lucas would end up needing ECMO until after he was transported here,” says Dr. Touch. “Since we are one of the few hospitals in the region to provide ECMO, it really was the best decision for him to come to St. Chris.”

About the Wedding

Brunell and Fox have been dating for almost three years and got engaged after just six months of being together. While they didn’t plan on a wedding at St. Christopher’s, Brunell says she couldn’t be more excited to be marrying Fox in front of their son. Pastor Francis Pultro, Chaplain at St. Christopher’s, officiated the wedding. Brunell wore a rented wedding dress; Fox wore a tuxedo; and even baby Lucas had a suit for the ceremony. All attire was donated for the occasion.

The Ronald McDonald House, where the couple has been staying since February 25, donated the wedding cake, car transportation and dinner following the ceremony. And Brunell’s wedding stylists? Danielle DiBartolo, MSW, LSW, NICU Social Worker at St. Christopher’s, helped with makeup, Michelle Arnts, Child Life Specialist at St. Christopher’s, helped with her hair, and Dr. Touch prepared her bouquet of flowers.

“We were finalizing details until the last minute,” laughs Brunell. “I had some wedding jitters, but overall, was excited. They are the two best people in my life and I’m so happy to be a family.”


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