A CafeMom Toddler With Artificial Lung Makes History

Catherine Crawford

toddler hospitalA 2-year-old boy from Eldon, Missouri -- and son of a CafeMom -- has made history. Although Owen Stark didn’t set out to do anything extraordinary, per se, as the youngest person in the world to receive an artificial lung, he’s opening up possibilities for scores of children for years and years to come.

Owen, who suffers from pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs), began to show symptoms last April and then collapsed in a Toys R Us this past June. Without any other options, his doctors at St. Louis Children's Hospital turned to a German-made apparatus, Novalung, to stabilize the boy until they could find a suitable lung for transplant.

Although Novalung is used abroad, it has yet to be approved here in the U.S. by the FDA, and St. Louis Children’s Hospital had to specially petition them on Owen’s behalf. It was a case of life or death. So, as well as being the youngest recipient, Owen is the first person in the U.S. to be saved by Novalung.  

Owen’s story, still ongoing, is truly remarkable, heartbreaking, and inspirational. In fact, his incredible, courageous mother, Tonya Stark, blogged about it on CafeMom -- "My Baby Boy is on Life-Support." By the way, if you think I’m using too many adjectives, I can’t help it. A story like this really gets me going. Spend five seconds on Tonya’s blog and you’ll understand why. For instance, here’s just a small excerpt from one day (July 21):

8:28am Nothing is set in stone but..just spoke with Dr. Doctor. If lungs come available tomorrow for Owen they will be turning then down. Currently it looks as though he will not need a transplant so there is no need to give him one. No one has ever healed in a case of hypertension, it looks as though Owen might be. This is not set in stone and his condition is still minute by minute.

11:36am Owen just had a ct scan. They think he just had a stroke. He is barely moving his whole right side. We are waiting for the official results...don't know how long.

I am happy to report that, despite the setbacks, Owen continues to get stronger, and it looks like he’s headed home in less than two weeks!

A pediatric cardiologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Dr. Mark Grady, remarked to ABC News:

“It's exciting in that there's a relatively simple device that may prove beneficial in saving children’s lives, because it certainly did that for Owen. ... If they design a lung machine like this that's smaller, it can be used for many infants who develop lung disease or [are] born prematurely."

Okay, I’m getting a little weepy again. Thank you, Owen and Tonya, and good luck!


Image via TMS62005/CafeMom


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