‘Miracle Kid’: Local preschooler thrives on medical challenges

AIDEN GETZ with members of her healthcare team at PICU. Courtesy of Geisinger

SPRING MILLS – Aiden Getz loves fire trucks, the movie Trolls, getting dirty and going to preschool. In other words, he’s a pretty ordinary four-and-a-half-year-old boy – and that makes him extraordinary.

This is because he overcame many medical challenges in his young life. Born prematurely at just 28 weeks, Aiden spent his first 10 months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Geisinger Janet Weis Children’s Hospital (JWCH) in Danville.

Today, Aiden is thriving at home with his mother, Stacie Tischler, and grandparents in Spring Mills. Recently, he was selected as one of Geisinger’s 2022 Children’s Miracle Network Miracle Kid Ambassadors.

Aiden’s long journey began with what started out as a normal pregnancy, complete with morning sickness and food cravings. But 17 weeks later, Tischler started losing amniotic fluid and was bedridden.

Then, on New Years Day 2018, Tischler gave birth. Her Mount Nittany doctors sent her to Geisinger in Danville, the nearest hospital with a NICU.

Once there she said: ‘The last thing I know is that they took my jewelry away, they put me to sleep and when I woke up I had to wait for two hours before they even show me a picture of him. … When they let me see him, he was intubated and he also had a feeding tube in his mouth – just this tiny skinny baby.

At three and a half pounds and 15 inches long, Aiden was a relatively healthy size for such a premature baby. However, as Dr. Michaelyn Notz, pediatric complex care specialist at JWCH, explained, “When children are born premature, it affects everything. Their eye development isn’t quite as it should be, their lung development isn’t quite as it should be, and their bone marrow isn’t as robust as it would be for a full-term baby. .

Notz said Aiden’s main issues relate to his immature lungs and gut. He experienced early setbacks, such as when his feeding tube caused him to suction, creating more difficulty for his lungs and leading to the insertion of a gastrostomy tube at three months.

He also struggled to produce enough blood to replace the blood that was constantly drawn for the tests his care needed, which required multiple transfusions.

Additionally, Aiden suffered from necrotizing enterocolitis, a serious condition affecting the large intestine, and tracheomalacia, a condition in which the cartilage in his trachea was underdeveloped and sometimes blocked his airways.

CPAP and high-flow oxygen machines helped him breathe. After turning six months old, Tischler made the difficult choice to give Aiden a tracheotomy and put him on a ventilator after doctors told Tischler it would help his lungs grow, ultimately allowing him to to return to his place.

“I thought if we did that it would take a few weeks and then we could go home. But it wasn’t just a few weeks. It was a lot of practice, making sure they had the right numbers on the air vent and making sure it was stable enough,” Tischler said.

As she had done since birth, Tischler stayed by Aiden’s side, sleeping at the Ronald McDonald House in Danville. Because the home ventilation program required two primary caregivers to be trained in caring for patients before sending them home, Tischler, a single mother, was joined by her father, Dale Tischler, for two weeks of training. intensive.

“Their whole family just rallied around Stacie and Dale, and bringing Aiden home was their number one priority. It was great to see,” said Claire Laubach, a medical assistant at PICU who coordinates the department’s home ventilation program. “He’s the first grandfather we’ve had as one of the primary caregivers, so it was a first for us, but it was such a joy to be able to see the joy he had in being a part of Aiden’s care team and played a vital role in getting him home.

Once home, Aiden was set up with a night nurse, who continues to provide care to this day. The g-tube is the only medical device he still needs, providing him with a nutritional boost for several hours each night, although he has started eating by mouth.

Aiden was recently diagnosed with autism and his ability to communicate vocally is limited. He attends the CenClear preschool program at Matternville Elementary School.

“This boy is smarter than I could ever imagine. He picks up really fast and he’s doing really well in school. He’s so excited to go,” Tischler said.

Although it’s harder for Aiden to recover from common childhood illnesses than most kids, “overall, I think his future is very bright,” Notz said. “He has made tremendous progress in his young life. Not every child premature to the degree he was was as successful as Aiden was.

As the CMN Miracle Kid, Aiden’s photo can be found on posters at many local stores, and he’s been invited to attend special events like Sesame Street Live at the Bryce Jordan Center. Perhaps most exciting for Aiden, he’ll be riding with his “Dad,” Dale, in a fire truck decorated with his posters at upcoming local fire company parades.

Meanwhile, Tischler stays in touch with NICU and PICU staff, visiting them whenever Aiden has an appointment with Dr. Notz. Tischler has used his experiences to help others, including proofreading documents on home medical equipment and inspiring other families.

“Stacie was a rock star. She kind of became a mentor to some of our parents — a real physical light at the end of the tunnel,” Laubach said. “I’m so grateful to Aiden and all the time and energy Stacie put into this so she could help other families now that Aiden doesn’t need all that tech support anymore. They’ve been such a blessing to be able to take care of them, and now they are helping to take care of other children.

This story appears in the June 30-July 6 edition of The Center County Gazette.

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