Simple Video Catches Serious Problem for Elijah

Simple Video Catches Serious Problem for Elijah

New mothers are proud to share cute baby photos and videos to friends and family.

But how many of those are sent to a neonatologist and end up signaling a serious medical condition in which early detection is critical?

Lydia Buss has plenty of footage of her son, Elijah, learning, growing and developing since he was sent home from the UnityPoint Health – Allen Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). He was delivered five weeks premature via emergency C-section and feeding was the most significant complication that led to a six-week stay in the NICU.

Elijah was only eating five percent of his feeding volume by mouth, which was somewhat of a medical mystery. Oral aversion was ruled out, reflux wasn’t the cause and feeding therapy created little progress. Then Pankaj Nagaraj, MD received a video from Lydia showing a small spasm that caught his attention.

When Dr. Nagaraj looked at the video one evening, he saw Elijah twitching his head and neck to the left. A call to Lydia came first thing the next morning, and the next call was to Dr. Andrew Peterson, a pediatric neurologist at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, for an MRI and EEG to get a closer look at Elijah’s brain.

It ended up being hypsarrhythmia and infantile spasms, which went undetected by other providers overseeing Elijah’s care and may have continued for months if not for Dr. Nagaraj’s sharp attention to the short video clip.

“Dr. Nagaraj is just much more responsive, and a much more reliable source of information than anyone else we’ve seen,” Lydia said.

“He’s our superhero. ‘Let’s text Dr. Nagaraj’ has kind of become our tag line.”

What came next was a steroid called ACTH as part of an evidence-based treatment plan to control symptoms and finally enable Elijah to work on improving his feeding skills. Early detection and treatment is critical for providing the best long-term outcome.

“This is a story that came from nothing and became life-changing,” Dr. Nagaraj said. “Through a random video, we picked up on what it was.”

A month later at almost nine months old, Elijah removed the feeding tube that he needed to get necessary nutrients for the past seven months. He now eats all of his meals by mouth and spends the rest of his time as a happy baby coming up on his first birthday.

That was the goal all along for Elijah as well as the rest of his family, who can now look back on many tough times and tough conversations knowing the team at UnityPoint Health helped them through all of it.

“Sometimes we would get test results that honestly scared the pants off of me. But I would text Dr. Nagaraj, and he would call me back in five minutes to calm my fears,” Lydia added. “The way he presents information is unwavering positivity, and it really helps knowing the challenge will be something we can handle.”