When Debbie Bohr was pregnant with her daughter Samantha, her doctor noticed something on a routine ultrasound at about 20 weeks that raised a red flag. “My baby’s left kidney was growing a bit larger than her right,” said Debbie, who works in Corporate Compliance at Northwell Health and lives in Westbury, NY. “They said usually, in this case, it ends up being urinary reflux.” The recommendation was to keep an eye on it, but as Debbie’s pregnancy progressed, nothing changed. “At about eight months, they told me to look for a pediatric urologist because I’d need one once the baby was born.”
So she went to Northwell Health’s website to research physicians, and found pediatric urologist Lane Palmer, MD, former chief of Pediatric Urology at Cohen Children’s Medical Center and current chief of Pediatric Urology at Plainview and Syosset Hospitals. She called his office and they said as soon as she had the baby she should get a sonogram while she’s in the hospital.
Three days after Samantha was born—Debbie noted everything went great—she had a renal (kidney) sonogram. And at just 11 days old, Debbie and her husband, Tim, took the sonogram results and went to see Dr. Palmer. “He reviewed the sonogram and told us her kidney was one of the worst cases of hydronephrosis and urinary reflux he had seen,” said Debbie. Even on that dire-sounding note, Dr. Palmer was calm and said he’d take good care of Samantha. Hydronephrosis means that every single time Samantha urinated, it backed up into her kidneys. “That's what made her kidney so large,” explained Debbie. “It was constantly filling up with urine because it was backing up.” Dr. Palmer put Samantha on daily prophylactic antibiotics. If she contracted a urinary tract infection, it could be very dangerous because it would immediately infect her kidney and put her at risk of damaging the organ.
Caring for Samantha as a baby came with a few small challenges—all meant to prevent infection. “She couldn’t take a bubble bath,” said Debbie. “I would have to wash her down and then fill the sink with plain water and let her play around in that.” From infanthood on, the Bohrs saw Dr. Palmer every few months. Sometimes, the condition resolves itself over time as a child grows. “But that wasn’t the case for Samantha,” said Debbie. “Hers never got better.”
So, when she was 3 1/2 years old, Dr. Palmer recommended surgery, which took place in October 2014 at Cohen Children’s Medical Center. A procedure that normally takes about an hour took twice that time because of the severity of the problem—and Dr. Palmer’s diligence about getting it right the first time. Samantha stayed at Cohen Children’s for four days and three nights. “The only thing Samantha remembers about the hospital stay was painting in the playroom and Dr. Palmer coming in to see her. She doesn’t remember that her bowels didn’t ‘wake up’ for two days and she couldn’t eat. She doesn’t remember the morphine making her sick or anything bad. All she remembers are good things, which I think is phenomenal,” said Debbie.