Fisher couple's baby home from hospital; surgery still ahead

FISHER — The baby of a Fisher couple has already seen more hospital time than most people see in decades.

Allenna Jo Dockham, who was born Jan. 18 to Kevin and Julie Dockham, returned home from the hospital last week following an extended stay. She also faces surgery for her heart later this year.

The baby, who has Down syndrome, was born later in life to the Dockhams. Kevin is in his 50s and Julie in her mid-40s. Julie's age is believed to be part of the cause for the baby's medical problems.

"March 27 we put her in the hospital," Julie said. "My husband took her to the pediatrician due to a little cough."

A test came back positive for upper respiratory congestion, and her cardiologist said she should be admitted to the hospital immediately because of the heart problem. She was admitted to the Children's Hospital at OSF St. Francis Medical Center, Peoria.

"Because of her heart condition, her lungs were already working overtime," Julie Dockham said. "She was admitted into intensive care, and Easter Sunday her breathing got real labored, her blood pressure dropped and her heart rate was going up to 180-200 beats a minute."

Allenna Jo had to be intubated and sedated and put on "probably 20 different medicines," her mother said.

After the baby got over her upper respiratory problems, she was struggling with her heart rate. She quit breathing five times.

Julie Dockham said doctors finally got her heart rate under control and corrected a low blood pressure problem, but then she caught another virus, which prolonged her recovery further in April.

She was able to return home Thursday.

Because she wasn't gaining weight, doctors inserted a gastrostomy tube into her stomach through which she will be fed. Weighing 7 pounds 7 ounces at birth, the baby now weighs only a little more than 9 pounds. Julie Dockham said babies her age normally weigh between 11 and 14 pounds.

The baby had forgotten how to suck a bottle.

Allenna Jo has lost so much muscle from being intubated that she can't raise her head. She will undergo physical therapy. A home health nurse will come to the Dockhams' house two to three days a week to monitor her medications and vital signs.

The Dockhams are unsure when Allana Jo's heart surgery will take place, possibly late August or September, to correct an atrioventricular canal heart defect and a heart murmur.

"Because of the respiratory virus, her lungs need to recover from that," Julie said.

The Dockhams' story appeared earlier this year in the Rantoul Press and The News-Gazette. They were surprised when they were told last year that Julie was pregnant. They had been using the same birth control that they had always used. But when Julie went to a Bloomington medical clinic for an injection for back pain, she was informed she was pregnant.

She has been putting many miles on her vehicle to and from the Peoria hospital to her work in Urbana.

Benefit planned for family. An Aug. 3 fundraiser will be held for the Dockhams at Glades Hall on the Fisher Fairgrounds. The event will include a car show and cruise, food, music, silent auction and raffle for a mini dirt bike. Additional details will be announced closer to the event.

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sweet caroline wrote on May 27, 2013 at 12:05 am

Sending prayers for God's healing of all of baby Allenna Jo's medical challenges.  She is precious.