Gunner Stinnett has gone through more surgeries and trauma in his first three years of life than most people experience in a lifetime.
The only child of Garrison and Brooke Stinnett of Waxahachie, Gunner was born on New Year’s Eve 2004. He was three months early but, according to his mother, a normal birth was expected.
“Immediately after Gunner was born, the doctors and nurses rushed him away and we didn’t understand why or what was going on,” Brooke said. “A little while later, one of the nurses had to tell us that there were some problems. The first thing he told us was that Gunner was born with a cleft palate. We just couldn’t believe it - but that was only the beginning of the devastating news.”
The rest of the news was that Gunner had other abnormalities that included webbed fingers, a club foot and only a partial right leg.
“Some of his fingers were webbed and others were short masses of flesh. They looked like little mushrooms,” Brooke said. “We were told that Gunner was diagnosed with amniotic band syndrome. These are bands that are attached to certain parts of the unborn baby’s body, which constricts blood supply to certain areas, causing those areas to not develop properly.”
According to the Fetal Care Center of Cincinnati, amniotic band syndrome is a group of abnormalities caused by bands of the inner lining of the “bag of water” that attach to the fetus resulting in abnormalities such as webbing of fingers and or toes, amputation of limbs and severe defects of the head, face, spine and body wall.
“We were shocked and devastated, but after we got over it, we started focusing on what we needed to do to fix it,” she said. “Along with concerns about the surgeries he would have to undergo, we wondered how he would function in life and what toll this would take on his personality.”
When Gunner was only 4 days old, he underwent revision amputation.
“His right leg was only partially developed and the bone was protruding from the end of it, so they had to cut that bone back and enclose the skin at the end or otherwise infection would have been a big problem,” she said. “He will have to have more of these revision amputations as he grows.”
Right after Gunner was born, he had to have a specialized feeding tube.
“They were unsuccessful at inserting it into his arm, so they had to go in through a vein in his neck,” Brooke said. “This tube would provide all his nutrition and medication he needed.
“But a few days later, Gunner was becoming listless and very pale, and his breathing was labored,” she said. “All the nurses told me that these things happened with premature babies, but I told them ‘no,’ something was wrong.”
According to Stinnett, the feeding tube perforated Gunner’s vein and the fluid was leaking into his chest cavity, which caused labored breathing as a result of pressure on his lungs.
“When they drained about 100 cc of fluid from his chest cavity, he began to immediately look and feel better. Then they found a good vein in his leg to insert the feeding tube and he started improving,” she said, noting an orthopedic surgeon corrected Gunner’s club foot by bracing it and making necessary adjustments every two weeks.
“Gunner’s most recent surgery was reconstructive surgery on his hands,” Brooke said. “The doctors planned to operate on one hand and wait several weeks to do the other one, but I told them I wanted them both done at the same time because I didn’t want to have him ‘put under’ twice.
“They warned me that I would have far more trouble in the recovery time by doing both hands at the same time, but I insisted,” she said, saying Gunner did “just great.”
“Having both arms in casts up to his arm pits didn’t slow him at all. We had some hand puppets made to slip over the ends of his casts and he had no trouble entertaining himself,” she said.
According to Garrison and Brooke, their son is living an active, healthy life just like any other child his age.
“He is very happy and active,” Brook said. “He loves to play with his trucks and his tractors and he never meets a stranger. He just lights up the room when he walks in.”
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