Wednesday 18 July 2018

'I never know when Filip will choke and if I’ll need an ambulance' - mother of Irish boy born without the ability to swallow

Filip Fraszczyk (5) with his mother Magdalena, father Piotr, and his sister Olivia.
Filip Fraszczyk (5) with his mother Magdalena, father Piotr, and his sister Olivia.
Filip Fraszczyk was born with tracheo-oesophageal fistula.
Filip with his sister Olivia, and grandparents Helena and Kazimierz Czyszczoń during a family holiday in Poland.
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

Five-year-old Filip was born without the ability to swallow.

His mother Magdalena can easily remember the panic-filled moment her little one-day-old boy turned “blue like a plum” in a corridor of the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street.

“Everything looked really well. We phoned all our family in Poland waking them up to tell them this wonderful news.

“I breastfed Filip with my midwife's help. Then we all went to the ward. While I was on my bed, I noticed Filip hadn’t arrived back. I didn't know that on the corridor my midwife was fighting for his life.”

“I didn't see this horror. My husband told me about it. On the corridor Filip had difficulties with breathing and his body went all blue like a plum.”

The midwife saved Filip’s life in one of Holles Street’s corridors, she said.

“We will be grateful until the end of our lives for what she did,” Magdalena said.

Filip was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit, and later that night his parents Magdalena and Piotr Fraszczyk, who are originally from Poland and living in Rathmines, Dublin 6, were told that he needed surgery on his oesophagus.

To compound the situation even further, the parents were told that because Filip was so tiny, weighing 2.620 kg (five pounds, eight ounces) when he was born, there was a chance he would not survive the surgery.

“Thank God, the surgery went well. We are so grateful and will be until the end of our lives to our surgeons and whole team who took part in the surgery and saved Filip’s life.”

In time, the parents were given the news that Filip had a rare illness called tracheo-oesophageal fistula (TOF), an abnormal connection (fistula) between the oesophagus and the trachea. TOF condition is a life threatening birth defect which occurs in one out of every 3,500 live births.

“It was such a huge shock for me as we didn't know anything while I was pregnant. I have never cried in my whole life as I did then,” Magdalena said.

Just before Christmas, 23 days after he was born, Filip was allowed to go home.

He was a fussy eater, and suffered with GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease).

Filip is at a constant risk of choking, and needs to be supervised when he eats and drinks.

“His oesophagus doesn't push food down properly and he has a tendency to get food stuck and chokes,” Magdalena said.

At a friend’s christening, Magdalena had to come to Filip’s aid when he started to choke on his food.

“I just sat him down with his head down and tapping his back and then I rotated him so that he was facing up with his head lower than my knees, and I gave him chest thrusts until the food moves.

“It is like living on a bomb because I never know when Filip will choke and if this time I will be able to help him myself or if I’ll need to call an ambulance.”

“After these episodes he usually cries, and I do too and afterwards he doesn't want to touch food anymore because he is scared.

Filip underwent two inguinal hernia repair surgeries, one in September 2016, and the other in January 2017.

Magdalena explained: “Filip gets infections very often and many times has to be treated with antibiotics. It is because children with this condition have a low immune system.”

“Other than that he is a very happy child, full of energy, and he’s always smiling.”

Magdalena spoke to Independent.ie hoping to increase awareness about her son's lifelong condition. For more information, see here

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