On Jan. 21, 2006, 21-month-old Brayden accidentally drank a caustic chemical. The chemical caused third degree burns to his mouth, esophagus and stomach. Brayden was rushed to a local hospital in Tyler, Texas, where he was sedated and put on a ventilator to help him breath. The medical team there contacted Children’s Health℠, requesting help due to the serious nature of Brayden’s injury.
Due to treacherous weather conditions, the Children’s Health helicopter wouldn’t be able to land in Tyler that day. Knowing that time was of the essence, the Children’s Health transport team secured its pediatric medically equipped plane and flew to the Tyler airport. They quickly prepared Brayden for transport, and with his dad Justin aboard, flew back to Dallas Love Field where an ambulance waited to take him to Children’s Medical Center Dallas.
Brayden was admitted into the ICU, where his parents, Ashley and Justin, first met Bradley Barth, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist at Children’s Health and professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern.
Ashley says that from the start, they knew Brayden was in good hands.
“Dr. Barth made us feel supported,” she says. “He listened to my concerns and was compassionate and understanding in a trying time.”
Still, Brayden was in critical condition and was placed in the room right outside the nurses’ station so they could keep a close eye on him.
After five days, Brayden graduated off the ventilator and began breathing on his own again. The next day, he was transferred out of ICU and into the gastroenterology unit. Finally, after just two weeks, Brayden went home, and his family was cautiously optimistic they could put the tragic accident behind them and move on.
Road bumps and recovery
While recovering, Brayden struggled to eat. Three weeks after bringing him home, Ashley and Justin brought him back to Children’s Medical Center, where doctors found that scar tissue was causing his esophagus to close. They performed what’s known as an esophageal dilation to stretch the walls of his esophagus to allow food to pass through, but due to the poor condition of his esophagus, it perforated during the procedure.
Brayden stayed in the hospital for the next two weeks while the perforation healed. When he was discharged to go home, Dr. Barth and his team including anesthesiologist David Bui, M.D., promised to continue to search for a long-term solution for Brayden’s esophageal problems.
A year later, Ashley received a phone call from Dr. Barth. He had just returned from a conference where he met a colleague who might have a new solution for Brayden. The colleague, based out of Denver, suggested placing a stent in Brayden’s esophagus to keep it from closing. At the time, pediatric esophageal stents were not readily available – except for the stents created by the surgeon/inventor. Ashley and Justin discussed their options, and with Dr. Barth’s support, they brought Brayden to Denver to have the stent placed.
Their little boy was just the 24th pediatric patient in the nation to undergo the procedure.
The stent was effective, but within two months, it slipped into Brayden’s stomach and needed to be replaced. Dr. Barth decided there must be a better way. He told Brayden’s family about a procedure in which doctors lined the esophagus with a compound called mitomycin C; this therapy decreases scar tissue growth. The only downfall: It could increase Brayden’s chances for developing esophageal cancer.
Again, Ashley and Justin were faced with a difficult decision, but ultimately decided they needed to think about Brayden’s current quality of life and lean on their faith to entrust his future.
Dr. Barth applied two doses of mitomycin C to Brayden’s esophagus. Since then, his scar tissue has yet to regrow. It’s been almost a decade.
A growing and grateful middle schooler
Today, Brayden is a typical eighth grader. He enjoys playing baseball, spending time with his friends, and eating his favorite foods: steaks and cheeseburgers. His mom jokes that looking at him, “you’d never know he missed a meal or had any feeding issues as a young child.”
He still has regular visits with Dr. Barth to look for changes in his esophagus, stomach and small intestine, and to detect abnormalities that may indicate cancer. So far he’s been given a clean bill of health – a fact that Ashley does not take lightly.
“I will forever be grateful to the people who showed up to work and gave so much of their time and dedication, so my child could be here today, healthy and thriving,” she says.
The pediatric gastroenterology experts at Children’s Health are at the forefront of research into new treatments for digestive and nutrition problems in children. Learn more about our programs and services.