House-bound three-year-old loves to see UPS man

Wednesday, January 7, 2015
Drake Barlow is an internet sensation with nearly 10,000 likes on his Facebook page.

By Ivory Riner

Staff Writer

As a result of health problems, Jill Barlow was told she would not be able to conceive -- during an emergency operation, doctors found her fallopian tubes were full of infection. She and her husband Eric were devastated. A year or two later, Jill found she was 12 weeks pregnant and the doctor said it had been a miracle the tubes reopened when she conceived. The doctor said her child had a 10 percent chance of surviving. Jill was later sent to a doctor who specializes in high-risk pregnancies by the same OBGYN who told her she could not have children. After finding out something was wrong with the baby, she started having biophysical profile and stress tests done and found that she had pre-eclampsia, a disorder of pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure and large amounts of protein in the urine. They told Jill her child had a heart defect and it had a very slim chance of making it out of the womb.

Upon arriving at Vanderbilt Medical Center, she was told her child had an irregularly small aorta, vocal cord paralysis, tracheal and bronchial malaysia, and inferior vena canal thrombosis clotting. After being diagnosed, she was driving to the hospital twice a week to have tests done on her baby. The doctors suggested that it would be safer to have her child naturally, something Jill refused to do. On Sept. 14, 2011, after two hours of Barlow pushing hard to deliver her baby boy, they rushed her in for a Cesarean section where Drake McCoy Barlow was introduced to the world, weighing in at 7 pounds 6 ounces. Jill was put in the intensive care unit for 24 hours as a precaution.

After Drake's birth he was rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where they worked with him for 20 minutes to help him breathe. At only seven days old, Drake underwent an open-heart surgery. Things were going well until the family noticed him turning blue after he coughed. Drake had gone into cardiac arrest. After 47 minutes of the doctors performing CPR to bring him back, they put him on an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine. Patients in the intensive care unit receive this to minimize blood clotting. The process involves their blood being passed through a tube to the ECMO machine where it can be oxygenated by an artificial lung, removing carbon dioxide from the blood, and returned to the body.

"We've done all that we can do. If he makes it through the night it will be from prayers and the good Lord," is what the doctor told the family.

The next day Drake was swollen really badly and the doctors questioned if he had brain damage. He was on the ECMO machine for six days, and 30 days after his heart surgery, the doctors finally decided to close up his chest, piece by piece. Every day got better for Drake, but after the doctors took his breathing tube out, they had to put it right back in.

He became well known throughout the hospital. The doctors started referring to their efforts in slowly wean the children in the hospital off breathing support systems as the "Drake Barlow Wean Down." After months of weaning him off of the Continuous Positive Airway (CPAP) System, he was finally able to move up to the Step Down Unit of the hospital at only a few days after his six-month-old mark. The family was staying at the Ronald McDonald House. The Step Down Unit teaches parents how to take care of their children at home once they are away from the supervision of the hospital.

After two or three days on the unit, Drake was taken back to rapid response for a blood clot in his shunt. He was taken in for his second open heart surgery. The doctors had to up-size his shunt for blood flow and told the family, "If he makes it through, it will be a miracle."

After surgery he was put on a full support ventilator and then later the ECMO. They were able to close his chest back up and he was taken back to the Step Down Unit and finally home.

In May 2013, the day after Mother's Day, Drake went through the first of his three hydroplastic procedures. After the surgery his stats started running low and he was taken to a catheterization lab for further testing. It took the doctors six hours to remove the 20 coils and collateral veins on his chest. A pacemaker was put in, but got infected and his chest started opening back up, causing it to become infected also. While in the hospital he experienced ICU delirium which caused him to want to be in the hospital's toy cars all of the time.

After performing another heart procedure to remove everything that became infected, doctors noticed his sternum had collapsed and found that it had attached to his heart.

On Aug. 1, 2013, he was able to go home. Today Drake still takes all of his daily medications and only lacks one more surgery in the three-phase hydroplastic series. Every week he has speech and occupational therapy. He is not able to go to public places because of his immune system, but loves seeing his hairdresser Jessica Rogers at the Candy Shoppe and the men at Waste Management where his father works.

He spends most of his time at home where he is taken care of by a nurse. Once UPS started coming by their home regularly, Drake began remembering the truck. He loves to see Curtis Johnson, who has been with UPS for 20 years; he even dressed up as a UPS man for Halloween one year.

"He won't take a nap if he knows Mr. Curtis is coming by. He'll stop in and see Drake for five minutes and it makes his day," said Jill.