Former Miracle Baby Helps Give NICU Slogan Then, Pays it Forward Now

Do you believe in miracles? Not the 1980 Winter Olympics’ “Miracle on Ice,” but the ones when you’re given a second chance…at life. At HCA’s Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center (P/SL), they believe in miracles. And it’s all because of Chris Downs.

Downs, a now healthy 20-year-old, was at one time fighting for his young life at the Denver-based HCA-affiliated hospital. Born at sister facility Rose Medical Center in 1995 with a rare birth defect called diaphragmatic hernia – a hole in the diaphragm that leads to abdominal organs in the chest, Baby Downs was given a 25 percent chance of survival.

He underwent lifesaving emergency surgery at Rose Medical, before being transferred to the children’s hospital at P/SL for advanced care. Downs, like many babies with this condition, had high blood pressure in the lungs that required post-operative Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO), a machine to work for the lungs.

Neonatologist Dr. Jeff Hanson, who still treats newborns at P/SL today, placed the baby on ECMO; then, with hopeful parents, played the waiting game. “The big question was whether he would survive after coming off the ECMO,” Dr. Hanson said. “The first 12 to 14 hours were critical.”

Thankfully, the Downs’ family were granted a miracle. After 11 days, Baby Downs, the first patient ever at P/SL to be treated using the ECMO machine, could breathe on his own and is now a healthy, happy and thriving college student at Colorado University-Boulder.

And for the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at P/SL? Their slogan, thanks to the Downs’ family, is: “I Believe in Miracles.”

Watch the local news story here to meet the miracle baby and see how he’s paying it forward this summer.

Chris Downs (far right) pictured with fraternity brothers. 

The survival rate for babies with diaphragmatic hernia is now 75 to 80 percent. Visit here for more information on HCA-affiliate Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at P/SL.