DENVER - There is nothing like the feeling when a doctor says your child has a one in five chance of living.
Yet when Martin and Andrea Salazar learned those were the odds facing their firstborn, they looked at one another and said it had to be manageable.
"I guess the way I looked at it was simple. We have a chance," Martin Salazar recalled.
Congenital diaphragmatic hernias (CDH) are not something most parents know anything about.
"Before [the doctors] told us about it, we had never heard of the condition before," Andrea Salazar said.
The more they learned, the more they realized they had reason to be nervous.
CDH is essentially a hole that develops in the diaphragm that allows parts of the child's belly to creep upward into the child's chest.
"Doctors told us [Rylan) had a 20 percent survival rate," Andrea said.
"It's tough to tell a parent that," Dr. Steven Rothenberg said. "In the worst-case scenarios the child basically can't breathe and can't oxygenate their blood because the lungs are so premature."
Quickly after his birth, doctors at the HealthOne Center for Maternal Fetal Health at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center decided they had to take some dramatic and admittedly risky steps to try to save the boy's life.
They put him under the care of something known as an ECMO machine. Dr. Rothenberg explained it's a machine that bypasses the heart and lung.
"It basically does that so he [and his organs] can rest," Andrea said.
Seven days later, the boy's lungs started to show signs of being able to work on their own. Months of surgeries and tests have followed, so much so that Dr. Jeff Hanson resorted to calling Rylan "Rhino" during the recovery.
On Tuesday, Rylan wore a hoodie with a grey rhino on it.
The hole in his diaphragm is now fixed. He remains on some oxygen but both Dr. Hanson and Dr. Rothenberg say the boy's prognosis is very good.
It's why Martin and Andrea Salazar decided it was finally time to share their story. They consider themselves pretty quiet people. But they wanted to make sure that more people are familiar with CDH.
For more information on CDH head to www.CDHsupport.org. April 19 is also National CDH Awareness Day.
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