Family fundraiser

Fund-raiser planned for family’s mounting medical bills

Mantachie family faces large bills because of son

born prematurely.

By Jeremy Hudson

Daily Journal

Just weeks before Christmas last year, Greg and Vickie Sheffield stood over their then-7-month-old son Noah’s bed and smiled.

They would have been smiling more if Noah’s room had not been in the North Mississippi Medical Center’s Women’s Hospital in Tupelo.

When Noah was born last May, he arrived 11 weeks early and weighed a mere 14.9 ounces, about half as much as he should have weighed as a premature baby.

He was on a ventilator for the first six months of his life. When he was finally taken off the machine, he experienced breathing problems and was unable to take a bottle.

A few days before Christmas, he had progressed enough that his parents and doctors thought he might be able to see his Mantachie home for the first time. For his parents, it would have been the ultimate Christmas gift.

But those plans were put on hold, as his improvement was not enough to warrant a trip away from constant medical care.

“If we would have taken him home then, I know that we would have just been right back there in a few days,” Vickie Sheffield said.

Plans now call for Noah to be released from the hospital in May.

For much of Noah’s early weeks and months, his primary doctor, Bryan Darling, a neonatologist at the medical center, sent Noah’s laboratory test results and digital photos to pediatric specialists at Le Bonheur in Memphis, but he needed some added input from the experts. The problem was, Noah was not physically able to withstand the ambulance ride to Memphis to be examined.

In year’s past, Noah would have been forced to attempt the trip anyway. But using telemedicine technology in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Women’s Hospital, Darling reviewed Noah’s case with a pediatric endocrinologist, a pediatric gastroenterologist and a pediatric geneticist without ever having to transfer Noah to Memphis.

“Growth delay is a very complex problem,” Darling said. “This technology gave us an opportunity to talk face to face with specialists while they examined Noah on their screen. I described to them in detail Noah’s growth pattern and how it related to the nourishment he was receiving. They were able as a group to put their heads together and offer recommendations for Noah’s care.”

Darling said the telemedicine technology allowed him to transmit real-time video images from Noah’s bed directly to the doctors in Memphis. He said being able to discuss Noah’s symptoms with other doctors without having to remove him from the Tupelo hospital helped him provide the child with better care.

“Anytime you change care from one doctor to another it can be dangerous,” Darling said. “I have a relationship with Noah. I know how he reacts to certain treatments and any other doctor would be starting from scratch.”

The technology allowed the Sheffields to keep Noah closer to home, but not having him at their Mantachie home was difficult on the family.

“It has been hard on us when we’ve had to leave him here overnight and it has taken a lot of strength to turn around and walk out,” she said. “This nursery is staffed by angels and if it wasn’t for them we couldn’t have done it.”

But that same technology that helped keep Noah near home, as well as other piles of medical expenses, eventually took a financial toll on the family.

But the medical expenses won’t stop then, Noah will still require medical attention.

With the bills mounting, and Vickie Sheffield planning to take time away from work when Noah is released from the hospital, family members have planned a fund-raising event for this weekend. A benefit barbecue and hamburger supper, auction and cakewalk is slated for 4 p.m. Saturday at the Mantachie City Park Pavilion.

“Me and Greg have both been off of work a lot,” said Vickie Sheffield. “That’s why my family had the idea for a fund-raiser. Things have been tough, but we did what we had to do for our baby.

“Our insurance has been really good, but we received a notice that the last bill had been paid. He has reached his lifetime limit.”