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‘Little Hulk’ Survives Traumatic Brain Injury

November 20th, 2018 · Leave a Comment

The unexpected can happen in the blink of an eye. Robert and Jennifer Payne were enjoying a Saturday morning at their Brunswick, Ga., home with their eight-month-old son, Liam, who they now affectionately call “Little Hulk.”

An active infant, Liam is a happy baby and has a smile that lights up the room wherever he goes. That morning, Liam pulled himself up – a new activity he was learning – by holding onto the family’s coffee table. Liam was so excited about his latest accomplishment.

Seconds later, he let go of the table. Instead of falling backwards, Liam tumbled to the side, hitting his head on the table’s metal leg. Even though his mom and dad were right there, it happened abruptly and they couldn’t stop the fall. How quickly things changed.

“After he fell, Liam instantly started screaming and crying,” Jennifer Payne said. “Call it mother’s intuition, but I knew something was terribly wrong.”

Payne called Liam’s pediatrician, Amy Pavlou, MD, of Pediatric Associates of Brunswick. Dr. Pavlou recommended they bring Liam immediately to the Emergency Care Center at Southeast Georgia Health System’s Brunswick campus, where they were seen by emergency physician Maria Wolf, MD.

A CT scan confirmed Liam had suffered a life-threatening epidural hematoma from head trauma. Dr. Wolf reached out to Wolfson Children’s Hospital of Jacksonville, which provides pediatric specialty care to children of all ages from North Florida, South Georgia and beyond.

Pediatric neurosurgeon Philipp Aldana, MD, co-medical director of the Stys Neuroscience Institute at Wolfson Children’s, recommended emergency surgery.

The relationship between Southeast Georgia Health System and Wolfson Children’s helped facilitate rapid coordination of care for Liam, who was transferred from Southeast Georgia Health System by helicopter to Wolfson Children’s. Dr. Aldana and the team at Wolfson Children’s were waiting for Liam when he arrived.

“As soon as Liam’s CT scans were available at Southeast Georgia Health System’s Emergency Care Center, Dr. Pavlou and Dr. Wolf notified our emergency department at Wolfson Children’s immediately,” said Dr. Aldana. “Our operating room team was ready for Liam when he arrived, and he was able to enter the operating room area within 10 minutes of the helicopter landing on our helipad.”

In Liam’s case, his life depended on brain surgery. He had an epidural hematoma, bleeding that happens between the outer membrane covering the brain (dura mater) and the skull as a result of head trauma. Liam’s case is not common and only occurs in about three percent of children. Only about a tenth of those children require emergency brain surgery.

“Liam had a very large hematoma that was putting pressure on a large part of his brain,” said Dr. Aldana. “This can compromise the brain’s blood supply, potentially causing a stroke. Or it can further expand and compress vital parts of the brain such as the brainstem in a process called cerebral herniation that can be fatal.”

Liam spent three days at Wolfson Children’s before he was discharged to go home.

“Dr. Aldana was amazing – we couldn’t have asked for a better doctor,” Payne said. “He was honest and open, and he saved our baby’s life. The entire staff including every doctor, PA, RN, CNA, nursing student and rehabilitation team member, will forever be in our thoughts. We are blessed they were the ones to care for Liam.”

Liam’s incision is healing, and “Little Hulk” is active, happy and alert. Liam will continue to receive follow-up care with Dr. Aldana at Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

“As terrible as it was, I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome,” Payne said. “Nothing could be worse than those feelings, thoughts and minutes that we experienced. We are so grateful and thankful that day played out the way it did in the end. Prayers from all around the country were being said for our ‘Little Hulk.’ It was a one-in-a-million situation, and I am forever thankful and grateful for the care we received.”

Whether a child has just received a diagnosis of a neurological disorder or needs ongoing care for his or her condition, the experts at Wolfson Children’s Hospital’s Stys Neuroscience Institute provide early diagnosis, intervention and treatment, and ongoing care for children with neurological conditions. The Stys Neuroscience Institute is a collaboration between Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, Jacksonville, and the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville, plus other health care institutions that brings together a multispecialty team to help children with brain, spine, skull-base and other neurological conditions. Recently, Wolfson Children’s Hospital of Jacksonville was ranked among the Best Children’s Hospitals in the nation by US News & World Report for its programs to treat cancer and complex neurologic disorders. Wolfson Children’s neurosurgery and neurology programs have been consistently recognized by U.S. News & World Report for nearly a decade.

Within the Stys Neuroscience Institute, there are several multidisciplinary centers specializing in specific types of neurological conditions. This brings together the expertise every child and family deserves when faced with a life-changing diagnosis. The Institute’s disease-specific, patient-centered approach is designed to take a child from diagnosis and second opinion to personalized treatment and ongoing therapy or rehabilitation.

Services provided at Wolfson Children’s Hospital are provided primarily by pediatric physician specialists with Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, Jacksonville, and the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville.

Pediatric outpatient specialty care is also offered at Wolfson Children’s at Southeast Georgia Health System, a specialty center located on the campus of the Brunswick hospital.

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