Ehrlich baby recovers from surgery

Emergency operation clears digestive blockage

May 04, 2004|By David Nitkin and Erika Niedowski | David Nitkin and Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

The 8-week-old son of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and first lady Kendel Ehrlich was recovering yesterday from emergency surgery to clear a blockage between his stomach and small intestine that was causing him to regurgitate food.

Joshua Taylor Ehrlich is expected to recover fully from the condition, which afflicts about one in 1,000 babies, doctors said.

The procedure was performed Sunday evening at the University of Maryland Medical Center by Dr. Roger Voigt, chief of pediatric surgery there. "He's doing very well after his surgery," Voigt said yesterday.

The governor had no public schedule yesterday and spent the day at the hospital, said spokesman Henry Fawell.

In a statement released yesterday afternoon, the governor said: "Thank you to everyone for keeping the Ehrlich family in your thoughts and prayers. We look forward to a speedy recovery and returning home with Joshua."

The ailment, known as hypertrophic pyloric stenosis, was identified after Joshua had been vomiting for much of the past week.

On Sunday, a pediatrician advised the family to bring Joshua to the emergency room at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis. The condition was promptly diagnosed, said Meghann Siwinksi, a spokeswoman for Kendel Ehrlich, and Joshua was taken to the UM hospital in Baltimore.

The nearly hourlong procedure was performed about 90 minutes after the family arrived at the hospital.

"It was very frightening. The whole idea of having to be operated on scared the heck out of all of us," said Robert L. Ehrlich Sr., the baby's grandfather.

Hypertrophic pyloric stenosis, which generally affects children between 3 weeks and 6 weeks old, is a narrowing of the outlet from the stomach to the small intestine. The muscle of the pylorus thickens, making it difficult - and sometimes impossible - for food to pass through.

Joshua "had a pretty high-grade obstruction," said Voigt, who performed the operation.

Joshua was slightly dehydrated when he was admitted to the hospital Sunday night around 6 p.m., Voigt said. By 7:30 p.m., the child was headed for the operating room for surgery that lasted 45 minutes to an hour.

Voigt made a small incision at the top of Joshua's belly button and pulled the pylorus out through the opening. He then made a small cut in the muscle, which was about the size of a man's pinkie and woody in texture.

"It literally just opens up like a walnut," said Voigt.

Over the next three to six weeks, the muscle will grow back together as scar tissue forms. It should function completely normally, the surgeon said.

The cause of pyloric stenosis isn't known, though genetics may play a role. The Ehrlichs have no history of the problem on either side of the family.

Voigt said the condition is more common in boys and happens more frequently around the change of seasons.

Joshua was expected to be released sometime yesterday or today, when he is feeding normally. He was born March 6.

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