Hi! I am Ashlyn Dugan and I am married to the man of my dreams, Cody Dugan. Cody and I met at my family pizza shop 5 years ago and quickly hit it off. We did the normal “couple” things; moved in together, got engaged, bought a house, got married in 2018 and landed our dream jobs.
In the midst of our crazy life, we found out that were expecting a baby in June 2019. Like any other couple expecting a baby, we were flooded with so many different emotions. My husband is a hard-working lineman for a power company so naturally, he was gone most of the week forcing me to go to most appointments alone. Thankfully, he was able to FaceTime most days to listen in and hear our little bundle of joy.
Our 20-week anatomy scan came quickly. Cody was unable to make it due to work, but I was so excited to show him pictures of our baby boy, Liam. The sonographer was quiet, taking measurements and explaining what I was looking at on the screen. I was memorized at the fact that there was a little human being in my belly. I was totally in love. The doctor came in and explained “Your baby’s head is small and there is a cyst like sac on his back. That’s all we know. It might be spina bifida, it might not but we recommend you seeing a specialist.” When I heard the words Spina bifida I didn’t know what to do. I was alone, scared and didn’t know what to think. I didn’t want anything to be wrong with our baby.
I remember making that phone call to my husband. We just sat in silence not knowing what to say, what to do or what to think. However, we decided that we would get through this together and trust God’s plan for our family. We got the call to see the specialist and went the next day. I have a huge family, and there was at least 8 of us in the room waiting for them to take the ultrasound and tell us what they thought was wrong with our baby boy. The doctor came into the room with a sadden face. She told us that she believes that our son had the worst cause of spina bifida and gave us the option to terminate as we weren’t sure what his quality of life would have been.
This was totally out of the question. We wanted to know what else we could do. This was our baby, our first born, there was no way we would ever consider termination. She suggested transferring to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. We would have driven to the ends of the earth to make sure our baby boy got the best care. We headed down to CHOP. During my prenatal care there, I went through an extensive number of tests and very long ultrasounds. They wanted to get every picture and make sure they knew what was going on with Liam before they told us what the plan was.
We received comforting news. Liam had a form of Spina Bifida known as amyelomeningocele, a sac-like formation at the base of his spine. They explained he would need neurosurgery when he was born to fix his spinal defect and possibly a second surgery to place a shunt in his head. Other than that, he would be anormal baby and kid. We felt so blessed and knew then that Liam was going to be a perfect little miracle. And that he is! Liam stayed in the NICU for two weeks. His surgeries were a success! He went through his “sac” removal when he was a few days old and had a shunt placed in his head when he was a month old.
During the removal of Liam’s myelomeningocele, some of the nerves controlling his ankles, bowel and bladder were damaged. To help with this, Liam has braces for his legs and a walker. We also place a catheter in this bladder every night to help him pee better overnight. To help with the weakness in his ankles, Liam works hard every week at therapy to help him get stronger.
We had a bumpy start to bringing Liam into this world, but he has proven to be the biggest blessing to our family. He brings so much joy and happiness to everyone he encounters. He is striving and defeating all the odds against him. Liam is such a determined little boy that won’t give up! We are excited to see what he will conquer next!