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Getting digestion back on track for a little rock star

Brayden is thriving after a highly technical surgery corrected his rare intestinal birth defect.

Baby boy with red hair in a yellow shirt smiles and plays with blocks.
Brayden came through surgery perfectly and is a happy, healthy baby.

Brayden Zagare’s birth on September 15 seemed completely routine. His parents, Janine and Jonathan, already had two children, so they knew what to expect and settled in for their first few days in the hospital with Brayden.

But almost immediately, Janine could tell that something was different. Brayden seemed to spit up everything he ate. And when he passed meconium, a baby’s first bowel movement, she thought it seemed like it wasn’t enough compared to her experience with her other children.

“I knew deep down that something wasn’t right,” she said.

When they were discharged to their home in Staten Island, NY, the Zagares quickly took Brayden to the family’s pediatrician and explained their concerns. He instructed them to measure exactly what Brayden ate and to count the number of diapers he wet, and then report back in 24 hours.

It was immediately clear that Brayden wasn’t eating or eliminating enough. The pediatrician had the Zagares take their 3-day-old son right to the emergency department at Staten Island University Hospital.

The doctors first suspected gastroesophageal reflux, which is common in infants, but tests revealed a serious blockage in his colon.

“They told us that Brayden needed to be transported right away to Cohen Children’s Medical Center,” Janine explained. So he was airlifted immediately to the hospital in New Hyde Park, NY.

Brayden quickly entered the care of pediatric colorectal surgeon Aaron Lipskar, MD, who diagnosed him with Hirschsprung’s disease. This rare birth defect causes improper development of the nerve cells in the colon and rectum. Without this neurological connection, the intestines don’t work correctly and severe blockages form.

“This is a very complicated diagnosis,” Dr. Lipskar said. “Our group performs between 15 and 20 colorectal surgeries for it each year, which is a lot for this condition. But even with a perfect surgery, there are risks for ending up with poor function.”

Brayden came through the surgery perfectly and hasn’t experienced any complications. “The doctors and nurses called him a rock star baby,” Janine said. “He was just so tough and took it all in stride.” He has started solid foods and is a happy, healthy baby.

“We are so grateful for Dr. Lipskar and everyone at Cohen Children’s,” Janine said. “They did a perfect job. We had a terrible situation, and they made it so easy. We knew we were in the best hands.”

Young woman with brown hair in a blue tank top holds a baby boy with red hair in a yellow shirt.
Janine is grateful for Dr. Lipskar and the team at Cohen Children’s.