CENTRAL TEXAS — It’s a scary and pretty unbelievable situation: Doctors tell you your unborn baby’s intestines are forming outside of their body.
"It was very hard, that day was really hard,” Kaitlen Garcia said.
That was the situation for parents Kaitlen Garcia and Christian Olivarez and their now 3-month-old son, Isiah.
"I was super scared for him, what he was going to have to go through,” Garcia said.
“We just didn't know either. You know, it was something we never heard of before,” Olivarez said.
Nurse navigators from St. David's Medical Center's "Baby Matters Program" reached out to the two.
"That was something that helped me so much,” Garcia said.
"We're able to support the family and prepare them for a potentially longer hospital stay,” Doctor Peter Untalan, St. David's NICU Medical Director, said.
They work to prepare parents whose unborn babies may need surgery.
"That can be very stressful on families," Dr. Untalan said.
Dr. Untalan said the program helps reduce stress for parents by showing them the NICU facilities and having them meet with doctors before the delivery.
"It makes a big difference,” Dr. Untalan said.
"All the walk throughs and the talks we had with the hospital and the specialists, it was kind-of like we knew what we were doing."
For Garcia, Isiah's birth date was still tough.
"I can't explain to you how difficult it was not to be able to bring my son home,” Garcia said.
With his intestines out, she couldn't hold him. Doctors whisked her moments-old baby away from her.
"You just see like, a bunch of intestines and it’s just like, 'Wow,'” Olivarez said.
For three days, doctors slowly pushed Isiah's intestines back inside.
"Usually, over the course of about a week, sometimes less, the abdominal contents go back into the abdomen. And then thereafter, our surgeons will close the hole up, and that’s it,” Dr. Untalan said.
"You would see the intestines inside the bag, and it was hanging above him so like, over time, they would slowly drop into him,” Olivarez said.
Dr. Untalan said this condition isn't as rare as you might think.
“We see it with some frequency. We are a large surgical NICU,” Dr. Untalan said.
He said this condition happens four in every 10,000 deliveries.
At St. David's, Dr. Untalan has seen about 30 cases in the past five years and said, for some babies, they could have their stomach or liver also outside of their body.
"It can be dangerous because those intestines or any of those other organs that are outside of the body can twist,” Dr. Untalan said.
What could have meant months in the NICU was only 17 days for Isiah.
“I love this little boy so much. So, so much,” Garcia said.
Born at four pounds and 14 ounces, he is now three months old and 12 pounds.
"Now when I look at him, I'm just so grateful. I'm just so thankful,” Garcia said.
She’s thankful for these miracle baby moments that they waited so long to embrace.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still studying this condition. They say this is more common in younger mothers or women who consumed tobacco or alcohol during pregnancy. But Isiah's mom did not, so it's still unclear what caused him to have this condition.