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Given 10 Percent Chance of Survival, Palmyra Toddler Surprises All

Baby boy’s missing diaphragm is created surgically at Golisano Children’s Hospital

Friday, May 20, 2005

Accompanied by her father and grandmother, Amanda Moon was excited about her doctor’s appointment. Already 26 weeks pregnant, she and her husband, Cliff, wanted to know if they should prepare for a baby boy or girl.

The ultrasound showed they were having a boy, but it also revealed some heart-wrenching news. “They told me the baby only had a 50-50 chance of surviving the delivery,” Amanda says. “We cried the whole way home. We were devastated.”

Those shaky odds eventually plummeted much lower, but today, after nine surgeries and a three-month stay at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong, 2-year-old Mason Moon has triumphed against overwhelming odds. He is one of five Miracle Kids who will be honored by the hospital during its Miracle Weekend celebration June 3-4.

Although Mason was a full-term baby, his survival was always in doubt. Before birth, he was diagnosed by ultrasound with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia, a life-threatening condition caused by a malformationof the diaphragm. After he was born, tests showed the condition was much more serious than first thought. “He was actually born without a diaphragm,” Amanda says. “His stomach and intestines were kind of floating around inside of him.”

Dr. Walter Pegoli Jr., chief of pediatric surgery at Golisano Children’s Hospital, placed the baby on ExtracorporealMembrane Oxygenation (ECMO), which employs a heart-lung machine to assume the duties of the lungs. With Mason’s ability to breathe critically weak, ECMO was a last-ditch effort to ensure that he continued to do so. “The day Mason was born, Dr. Pegoli gave him a 10 percent chance of surviving,” Amanda recalls. “I was thinking, ‘He’s going to die.’ I was prepared for that.”

The turning point for Mason came during his first week, when he underwent surgery to stabilize his lungs and recreate the missing diaphragm. It was the first of nine surgeries and marked a major milestone for the baby, who was able to come off ECMO the next week and sustain breathing on his own. After surviving that major hurdle, Mason underwent additional surgeries to correct other congenital anomalies. For instance, he was born with an imperforate anus, a condition in which there is no opening where the anus should be.

Doctors say his recovery is remarkable. “Despite all odds, Mason is still here,” Pegoli says. “I wish I could take credit, but I cannot. He is a tough kid!”

Golisano Children’s Hospital, which started using ECMO in 1997, is the only hospital in the region offering the technology. “Doctors told us that if Mason had been born five or 10 years ago, he would not have survived,” Cliff Moon says.

Amanda and Cliff Mason are thankful to everyone at Golisano Children’s Hospital, including the staff in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, which watched over Mason for 90 days. And they developed a strong bond with Pegoli. “We love him. We really do,” Amanda Moon says. “During an appointment one day last summer, Dr. Pegoli said, ‘Good news. I don’t need to see Mason anymore.’ I said, ‘Can’t you find something?’ He is very straightforward, and that is the way we wanted it to be. I give everybody credit for Mason, but if it weren’t for him…”

Today, Mason, who turned 2 in March, is doing well. He is walking, talking, and playing, and his parents cherish his personality. “He is the funniest kid,” Amanda Moon says. “He has a great sense of humor and loves music. He’s going to be an entertainer. Each birthday is a giant milestone – amazing for a baby that wasn’t supposed to be here.”

Miracle Weekend celebration

Miracle Weekend is always one of the most exciting times of the year for Golisano Children’s Hospital. It includes two major events.

The Golisano Children’s Hospital Telethon will be broadcast live from the hospital on 10NBC June 3 and June 4. In addition, Miracle Weekend always includes the Stroll for Strong Kids, to be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 4, at Genesee Valley Park. Children’s activities and registration will begin at 9 a.m. When finished with their “Stroll,” walkers will be treated to a free lunch. There will be music by Gary the Happy Pirate, and many fun activities for the kids.

Participants are asked to raise money through sponsorship pledges from family members, friends and co-workers. Prizes will be awarded to the top fund-raisers. The event is expected to draw 2,000 and raise $200,000. Pre-registration is required by Thursday, May 26. To register for the Stroll for Strong Kids, or learn more about any Miracle Weekend event, call 585-273-5948 or visit

In addition to honoring children such as Mason, Miracle Weekend allows the hospital to raise funds that provide needed equipment for the children it serves, and items that make their stay a little easier.

Money raised will be used by Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong to buy equipment, such as preemie blood-pressure cuffs, and supplies, such as IV pole wagons, videos and games, and sleeper chairs so parents have a comfortable place to rest when they stay with their children.

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