Despite 'Grave Prognosis' at Birth, Rochester Boy Thrives

His family will share its heartwarming story during Miracle Weekend

May 30, 2001

Langston McFadden Jr. is only 4 years old, but he's already an avid churchgoer. After hearing his miraculous story of survival, it's easy to understand why he's always the first to respond when his preacher asks, "Can I get an amen?"

As part of its Miracle Weekend celebration, Children's Hospital at Strong is honoring five children - including Langston - as Miracle Kids. Each child overcame significant health problems while being treated at Children's Hospital at Strong.

Langston's Story

In 1997, Langston's mother, Kimberly Butler, was anxiously awaiting the birth of her first child. During her 26th week, her life changed suddenly and forever.

Her baby wasn't moving.

"I was driving to school for finals and I've never missed an exam in my life, but something told me to turn around and go to Strong," Butler says. "They gave me an ultrasound and the whole screen was black. I panicked."

Doctors told Butler there wasn't enough amniotic fluid for her baby to live. He was choking on the umbilical cord, so an emergency cesarean section was scheduled.

"I didn't want to go in during the surgery, but the doctors were telling me that he probably wouldn't survive long," says Langston McFadden Sr., the boy's father. "When he was born, all I saw was a little foot. They said, 'It's a boy," and whisked him away for tests. He weighed less than two pounds. He could have fit in the palm of my hand."

Langston, who was born May 1, 1997, was cared for in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children's Hospital at Strong for six months. His condition was so serious that his parents couldn't touch him for nearly half a year without wearing gloves.

Langston was born with many problems commonly associated with premature babies. He had immature lungs, retinopathy of prematurity (a condition that can lead to blindness), and recurring infections. He also had congenital cytomegalovirus, a condition that caused a gastrointestinal disorder, liver impairment, hearing loss, bone-marrow suppression, and poor heart function.

Fortunately for Langston, Children's Hospital at Strong has a specially trained staff and the very best equipment needed to care for such premature babies. By the time Langston was three months old, doctors saw signs of improvement that indicated he might soon be able to go home.

Days later, though, he ran into more complications.

"One night he was very active, and the next day we came to see him and he looked lifeless," McFadden says. "I think that was the first time I cried. For the first time, I thought he might die."

Eventually, with the help of 11 medications, two feeding tubes in his stomach, and intense home nursing care, Langston went home.

"He beat the odds just to get out of the NICU," says Pam Herendeen, a nurse practitioner at Children's Hospital at Strong. "Today, he is essentially a healthy, normal, thriving boy. This is an amazing accomplishment for a child who was born so prematurely and had so many complications."

Although he has hearing loss in his right ear, Langston is doing well. He is enrolled in pre-school and attends weekly education programs at Hochstein Music School.

"Langston likes music," McFadden says. "He is also extremely mischievous and he loves to make people laugh. And he loves going to church. When the preacher says, "Amen?" he's the first one to respond."

Langston's parents attribute his dramatic recovery to the highly skilled staff and modern technology available at Children's Hospital at Strong. They also thank Morgan and Ida McFadden, Langston's grandparents, who've provided tremendous support.

"They've really been a huge part of Langston's life," McFadden says. "He calls them mommy and daddy just as he calls me and Kim mommy and daddy."

Despite his grave prognosis at birth, Langston surprised all of his medical providers with his progress.

"Children who have cytomegalovirus are frequently devastated, and children who are born as prematurely as Langston usually have multiple long-term complications," Herendeen says. "Langston had both and is a normal, healthy child - a true miracle!"

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