When Nate Fisher was born at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital in December 1999, his parents, Brian and Kristi, were as happy as any mom and dad could be. Their first child was a full-term baby boy who appeared perfectly healthy.
After 12 hours, however, “something wasn’t right,” Kristi says. Nate was throwing up and not “going to the bathroom” as a newborn naturally would.
Tests showed that Nate had been born with a rare form of Hirschsprung’s disease— he was missing nerve cells in almost the entire intestine. Nate couldn’t absorb nutrients because his intestine was essentially paralyzed.
Pediatric gastrointestinal specialists at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital recognized that Nate’s case was serious. The Fishers suddenly faced the possibility that Nate might not live beyond a few months.
At 4 days old, Nate underwent surgery, as doctors put in a stoma to drain his small intestine. Four days later, surgeons inserted a central intravenous (IV) line to provide nutrition and fluids. Nate’s condition steadily improved. At 20 days old, his parents took him home.
“We were never treated as if Nate wasn’t going to survive,” Kristi says. “All along, they’ve taught us what to know and what to look for. Just amazing care—Nate continues to do things he wasn’t expected to do.”
Nate has made great strides over the past 10 years, but not without challenges. He’s had several central line replacements due to infections. In 2007, Nate began having severe pain, leading to major abdominal surgery in 2008 to remove some of the paralyzed intestine. In March 2010, Nate had most of the remaining small intestine removed. That proved to be a breakthrough—since 2010 he has been pain-free.
Nate continues to receive almost all of his nutrition and fluids from his IV line. He needs frequent ostomy bag changes through- out the day; Brian and Kristi carefully monitor his hydration levels and other health indicators. But otherwise, Nate is a typical young boy. He likes riding his bike, doing archery with his dad, taking part in 4-H activities, and playing with his brother Luke and sisters Brenna and Elisa. Brenna was diagnosed with a less severe form of Hirschsprung’s disease in 2004 and, like Nate, comes to UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital for treatment and follow-up.
Although the Fishers live in northwest Iowa—hours away from Iowa City—they consider UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital their “home away from home.”
“If Nate’s health changes, night or day, we know it’s time to make the drive straight to UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, where his team will be awaiting our arrival,” Kristi says. “It’s a very blessed place for us.”
“They go above and beyond, every time,” Brian adds. “It’s the place to be.”
Nate wants to grow up to be a doctor who helps other children with gastro-intestinal problems.”