When a routine ultrasound early in Kawana Randall’s pregnancy in 2011 revealed twins, she and her husband, Lorenzo, of Calera were delighted. No sign of trouble for Kawana or her babies was evident but because of her small stature, her pregnancy was cautiously considered to be high risk and doctors placed her on bed rest. Despite those precautions, the two little boys – Carson and Carter – were born at just 26 weeks. Still, they appeared healthy. “We had no idea what was coming down the road,” Lorenzo said.
Both were immediately placed in the NICU of their birthing hospital and were soon determined to have each suffered bleeding in his brain, not uncommon among premature births due to the fragility of the blood vessels. Carson’s was more severe.
Two weeks later, Carson developed further complications that required him to be airlifted to Children’s of Alabama for life-saving surgery on his intestines. “It was life or death,” Lorenzo said. “We had no option.”
While in Children’s NICU, Carson’s care team noticed that his head was growing at a faster rate than normal and the little boy was diagnosed with chronic hydrocephalus which is typically treated with a surgically-placed shunt that removes excess fluid. Unfortunately, Carson’s anatomy isn’t “built” for the shunt, according to his dad, so shunt malfunctions and replacements have become the norm. “Carson has had 75 to 80 procedures, mostly due to shunt failures,” Lorenzo said. “He’s never gone six months without a shunt malfunction. One year we spent every holiday in the hospital.”
The shunt issues have triggered other health problems for Carson, including seizures, infections, blockages, vision problems, developmental challenges and meningitis. A tracheostomy helps him breathe. At one point, he suffered three strokes which reversed much of the developmental progress he had made. He now has therapy three days a week and is at the doctor’s office at least once a month. He’s seen doctors in numerous specialties at Children’s, including neurology, neurosurgery, pulmonary, ENT, gastroenterology and infectious diseases. His trach must be suctioned every 30 minutes and his parents keep a watchful eye on his shunt. But his vision has returned and he has started to crawl, doing his best to keep up with his brother, Carter, who has had a few health challenges of his own. “It’s been hard but I can’t complain, I won’t complain,” Lorenzo said. “God doesn’t make mistakes. It may not be fair, but it could always be worse.”
An innovative approach to the shunt revision Carson had in October, 2015, is showing promising results, giving the Randalls hope for Carson’s future. “Looking at him motivates me a lot. He’s my little Superman,” Lorenzo said. “If Carson’s not giving up, then I can’t give up.”