Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

A Fighter is Born
Clayton's story

January 01, 2012

Born nine weeks early, baby Clayton Auman faced seemingly insurmountable odds. But the experts at St.Vincent Women’s Hospital and Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St.Vincent took extreme measures to save his life. Seven years later, Clayton is alive and well, a living example of how the biggest heroes in life are often also the smallest ones.

It started when Clayton’s mother, Kayce Auman, was 22 weeks pregnant. Her water broke, and she spent the next seven weeks in the care of St.Vincent Women’s Hospital High-Risk OB Unit. A newborn intensive care doctor told Kayce that Clayton would likely be born with severe respiratory problems.

Seven weeks later, Clayton arrived, miraculously breathing on his own. But because his protective amniotic sac had been ruptured for so long, his lungs had not been able to “practice” breathing while his mom was still pregnant. Clayton developed pneumonia, and when he was unresponsive to antibiotics, Kayce and her husband feared the worst. “At one point, we didn’t think he would pull through,” she said.

To save Clayton, doctors administered a powerful antibiotic that unfortunately had the potential side effect of hearing loss. The medicine worked, but a few months later, a standardized hearing test revealed Clayton to be profoundly deaf.

Later, Clayton developed a chronic lung condition called bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). Responding quickly, doctors performed a life-saving tracheotomy on Clayton. “I had such great confidence in our doctors,” Kayce said. “They were honest and told us how it was. And I knew that without the tracheotomy, his chances of survival were slim.”

Nearly a year after his birth, Clayton finally went home. His parents were overjoyed – and a bit overwhelmed. “He came home with a tracheotomy tube, ventilator, feeding tube and more than 20 medications,” Kayce said. Thankfully, hospital nurses regularly visited the Auman’s home to help care for Clayton.

“They were great, and we grew close to many of them,” Kayce said. “Like all we’d encountered at the hospital, they were genuinely invested in seeing Clayton get better.”

In the following months, Dr. Chris Miyamoto, pediatric otolaryngologist, gave Clayton bilateral cochlear implants to help restore his hearing. Clayton was improving steadily, but hit another setback when he contracted RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus. In older children, RSV typically results in cold-like symptoms. But in high-risk kids like Clayton, it’s a life-threatening condition.

The Aumans consulted with Clayton’s doctors, who decided to pursue an experimental drug. It worked, and Clayton gradually recovered. “Before the RSV, he could walk, talk, run and play,” Kayce says. “Afterward, he had to relearn everything.”

Showing remarkable strength along the way, Clayton was weaned off his ventilator, and his trach was removed. And with help from his pediatric pulmonologist, Dr. Leyla Akanli, his lung function improved vastly.

Now, aside from slight asthma, few would guess at what Clayton has endured. “We’re so very appreciative of everything and everyone at St.Vincent,” Kayce said. “They really are the reason he's here today.”