Wyckoff Hospital fetes miracle baby’s birthday

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When the neonatal unit of Wyckoff Medical Center in Brooklyn held a surprise birthday party for 1-year-old Josiah Arroyo Monday, they greeted the little boy — whom they referred to as “Wyckoff’s Baby” — not as a patient but as a family member.

“You treated him like he was your son,” said Leslie Lopez, Josiah’s mother, who lives in Ridgewood.

Josiah was a familiar face to many on the staff. He was born by Caesarean section Aug. 12, 2009, with gastroschisis, a condition in which there is a defect in the abdominal wall, and large portions of his small intestines developed outside of his body. The condition meant Josiah — then 4 pounds 13 ounces — had to undergo six surgeries and spend more than nine months of care at the hospital.

Sanjivan Patel, director of neonatology at Wyckoff, said the doctors were prepared for Josiah’s condition, which occurs in 1 in 5,000 births a year, as they saw it on a sonogram of the baby and had previously treated two babies with the same condition.

But unlike the previous cases, large portions of Josiah’s small intestines were not viable.

“Everything practically died,” said Franchesca Velchek, Josiah’s pediatric surgeon.

Velcheck performed six surgeries on Josiah, which helped give him a functioning and normal-sized colon, as well as expanding his small intestine from 17 centimeters to 39 centimeters — a normal small intestine for his age would have been 180 centimeters. She described the surgeries as a conglomeration of all she had learned and said her treatment could not have been carried out without all of the medical staff.

“Without everybody’s help, there’s no way this baby could have survived,” she said.

But Josiah needed additional help. In addition to the surgeries, Josiah was also kept on nine catheters. Because of his sensitive condition, he suffered numerous sicknesses, such as vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, jaundice and several infections.

A nutritional plan had to be worked out for the new baby as well. While Josiah can eat, his shortened small intestines means the food is not processed properly. Even though he has come home he is still hooked up to a gastronomy tube and an intravenous broviac catheter, in which nutrients stored in a backpack Josiah’s mother keeps with him are pumped into his body, Patel said.

Lopez said during this time she got a tattoo of her son’s name on his shoulder. While she visited the hospital every day, she often was far away from the baby and wanted to feel closer to her son.

But Josiah, now 16 pounds 8 ounces, is now doing well. He can sit up and pull himself up on his own, Patel said. Josiah has the development of a 10-month-old baby because of his medical problems and is working with a physiotherapist and a speech therapist to close the gap.

“He’s such a sweet boy,” Patel said. “He will take over your heart.”

The doctors presented Josiah and his mother with a gift basket and laid out food for everyone, including a birthday cake. Members of the medical staff sometimes cried when recounting the harrowing months. Others let the baby play with their name badges.

“I can only say one thing,” said Rajiv Garg, president and CEO of Wyckoff. “This is obviously where God and medicine meet.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 6:08 pm, October 10, 2011
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