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Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH) Treatment
A family moves across the world to ensure the best care for their baby with CDH.
April is CDH Awareness Month.
They say a mother’s love knows no limits — and certainly no distance.
It is exactly this love that prompted Chava Felsinger and her husband, Ephraim, to move their family from their home in Israel to Houston, Texas, when her youngest child was diagnosed with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) during a 20-week ultrasound.
The young mother, who’d already experienced two uncomplicated pregnancies, was surprised and unprepared for this diagnosis and wasn’t sure exactly what it meant. CDH is a hole or opening in the baby’s diaphragm, the muscle that separates the abdomen from the chest. The defect allows the abdominal organs — the stomach, intestine, liver and spleen — to move up into the chest cavity. These other organs crowd the baby’s lungs and prevent them from growing and developing properly. Severe cases of CDH are usually associated with serious diseases or even death after birth.
“We currently live in Israel, and I saw a specialist there,” Chava said. “I started doing a lot of research and discovered all of the success stories that came from Texas Children’s Hospital, while also learning about Dr. Michael Belfort’s reputation for being the best. A friend of mine emailed him, and we began discussing the details involved in saving my baby’s life.”
Dr. Belfort, Obstetrician and Gynecologist-in-Chief at Texas Children’s Hospital and Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine, leads a world-renowned team of gynecologists, obstetricians and fetal surgeons at Texas Children’s Fetal Center.
Within days, Chava and Ephraim traveled to Houston for a consultation with the team. Together, they decided to move forward with a fetoscopic endotracheal occlusion (FETO) , a fetal intervention to help babies with CDH.
A life-changing move
This decision meant that the entire family’s lives would change for several months.
“The Felsingers are not alone,” said Dr. Ahmed Nassr, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist and fetal surgeon at Texas Children’s Fetal Center, and an Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine. “We see families who travel from across the world — from Mexico, the United Emirates and, in this case, Israel. It is a big sacrifice to move your entire family, including schooling for your children, to another country. But when it comes to finding the best care for their baby, families will go the distance for the best outcomes.”
And that’s exactly what the Felsinger family did.
They all moved to Houston, and when Chava was 30 weeks pregnant, Dr. Nassr performed the first surgery, placement of a tiny balloon in the unborn baby’s trachea to simulate lung growth. Five weeks later, he performed the second surgery to remove the balloon.
On May 2, 2022, Simcha Felsinger was delivered full-term and began a weeks-long stay in the neonatal intensive care unit at Texas Children’s Hospital West Tower. After he was discharged from the hospital, the Felsinger family returned to Israel.
Today, Simcha — which means happiness, gladness or joy in Hebrew — is a happy and healthy 11-month-old and is much loved by his siblings, 4-year-old Shamuel and 2-year old Eli.
“When we look at our healthy baby boy, we know that the move to Houston was more than worth it,” Chava said. “There is no doubt that the care we received at Texas Children’s was life-saving for our baby and life-changing for our family.”
In Hebrew the word means happiness, gladness or joy. A joyous occasion, a celebration