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Toddler With Intestinal Disease to Leave Hospital for First Time

September 12, 1989

BALTIMORE (AP) _ A ruffled pink dress concealed the tubes that have sustained her since birth, but nothing could hide the excitement of a toddler planning to leave a hospital where she has lived all her life.

Ogechi Anyanwu waved and smiled and called frequently for her pacifier at a news conference to announce she will leave the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center Wednesday for a hospital in Missouri, where her parents, who are from Nigeria, plan to live.

″Her progress has been excellent and her prognosis for leading a normal life is terrific,″ said Dr. David Dudgeon, Ogechi’s pediatric surgeon.

Ogechi weighed barely more than 2 pounds when she was born prematurely at Hopkins in October 1986. Within 10 days, she developed an intestinal disease called neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis, which kills bowel tissue.

The disease, which strikes about one premature baby in 100, spread quickly in Ogechi. Doctors had to remove 80 percent of her small intestine and 50 percent of her colon.

Without a normal intestine, Ogechi is unable to eat solid food. Even when she rides her tricycle, a machine holding three bags that supply her with nutrients must trail behind her.

Two pumps provide a mixture of fats, proteins and sugars, which she receives intravenously. Another provides 80 percent of her calories, which she receives in a tube to her stomach.

To give her something to taste, doctors have occasionally treated her to tiny sponges flavored with lemon extract.

″It’s a far cry from ice cream, but it’s something,″ Dudgeon said.

Ogechi’s condition is exacerbated by diarrhea and frequent infections. She must take antibiotics regularly, and has returned to surgery more than a dozen times for repairs to her intestinal tract and insertion of intravenous lines for feeding.

Despite her lifelong hospitalization, doctors say Ogechi is developmentally normal. She weighs a robust 35 pounds and has an advanced vocabulary.

″How many 3-year-olds do you know who know how to say ’stethoscope?‴ asked Dudgeon.

″She is full of joy, love, very rambunctious and very giving. She is truly a people person,″ said Maura Mahon, a nurse who cared for Ogechi her first year.

Nurse Mary Kay Alford, who has cared for Ogechi the past year, said: ″Aside from the fact that normal 3-year-olds don’t get their temperatures taken every four hours around the clock, we try to give her as normal a life as possible.″

Alford will escort the child to University Hospital in Columbia, Mo., where Ogechi’s parents, Longinus and Edith, live. Her father teaches computer science at Columbia College.

Ogechi’s doctors anticipate the toddler will be released from the Missouri hospital within several months.

Dudgeon said Ogechi’s intestines have recently doubled in length and grown in diameter, which will soon allow her to eat food normally.

″I expect that within a matter of months she will be eating solid food, although she might have to stay away from real spicy pizza,″ Dudgeon said.

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