When 19-year-old Dominic Hillman was just 7 years old, his parents, Eddie and Michelle, made the decision to move to Prattville from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, so their little boy could be closer to Children’s Hospital of Alabama in Birmingham.
Dominic needed specialized care for treatment of cystic fibrosis (CF), an inherited disease that attacks the lungs and digestive system and may result in early death. He was born with a very large intestinal blockage and underwent surgery to remove the damaged intestines only 18 hours old after his birth. The first four months of his life were spent in the Children’s Hospital of Mississippi NICU.
Dominic lived with a colostomy until he was a year old. When he was 7 years old, his doctors told the Hillmans there was nothing else they could do to improve his quality of life. That’s when they turned to Children’s Hospital of Alabama.
“The Cystic Fibrosis Center at Children’s is one of the top clinics in the nation, and after only one visit they gave us great hope for a long and healthy life for Dominic,” Eddie says. Although Dominic was very sick at the time, he began an intensive regimen of treatment. Over the years, he would need three surgeries, treatment for CF-related diabetes and many admissions to Children’s.
“Through regular visits and dedication to enhancing their patient’s lives, the CF care team has helped Dominic completely turn his health around,” says Eddie. “The aggressive care Dominic received changed his quality of life and his life expectancy. He graduated high school and is now in his second year of college at Auburn University at Montgomery. Dominic holds a full-time job and enjoys working with and rebuilding cars.”
Dominic also has become a role model to others on how to fight CF by strict adherence to their home care treatment programs. He is, in fact, a role model for his younger brother, 15-year-old Joshua, who began visiting Children’s Hospital when he was 2 ½ years old.
Joshua needed seven surgeries because of polyps in his sinus cavities, but he experienced few problems with CF until he was admitted to Children’s with a severe lung infection when he was age 10. “His health was never the same again,” Eddie says. “Joshua began getting sick much more often with lung infections and needed numerous admissions to the Hospital each year. In the past three years, he has relied heavily on the dedicated efforts of the CF care team to sustain him. Last year, he almost died.”
In the summer of 2009, Joshua had a port put in his chest to enable him to receive the large and very frequent amounts of IV antibiotics he needs to keep his body functioning on a daily basis. He undergoes a very vigorous daily regimen of medication and respiratory therapy to help maintain his health at home. And, he also has been diagnosed with CF-related diabetes, which is being managed with insulin.
“Children’s has been an invaluable part of providing world-class care for him on a daily basis,” says Eddie. “He has benefited from the many different resources offered by Children’s Hospital. From ENT and Pulmonary to Physical Therapy keeping him active to the Sunshine School helping him keep up with his schoolwork.”
Although Joshua is not physically able to participate in organized sports, he has a great passion for them – and last year he served as a sideline reporter for the Lion Network, a radio broadcast of the Prattville High School Lions football games. He currently is a sophomore at Prattville High School where he is on the yearbook staff.
Happily, 16-year-old Brittany does not have CF, but she, like her brothers, has needed the care of Children’s Hospital. “When she was 4 years old, Brittany underwent testing at Children’s on her kidneys due to a severe infection that sent her into shock while at daycare,” Eddie explains. “Her diagnosis was good in that she did not have long-term kidney damage.”
Brittany enjoyed a healthy childhood and went on to become a national champion dancer as a teen. But last year, she felt severe pain in her hip, leg and back. She returned to Children’s Hospital for a visit with Pediatric Orthopaedics, where she was quickly diagnosed with scoliosis and a damaged hip flexor.
“The doctors developed a treatment plan that entailed a vigorous physical therapy routine that they believed would allow the problem to correct itself and allow Brittany to continue her love for dance,” Eddie says.
She underwent very painful physical therapy five days a week for more than six weeks to help correct her hip. Children’s doctors also helped her learn to manage her scoliosis so she could continue her daily activities without limitations.
The high school junior was able to go on to win her third national dance championship and to represent Alabama with a professional dance company touring the country this summer.
“Though the last several years have been very trying for our family, Children’s always has provided world-class care for all of our children,” says Eddie. “We remain optimistic about the health of all three.”