This is the story of Dominic Cappello, who is just two months old and bravely fighting a rare and serious illness, and his family, who are determined that he will win.
On 7 April 2016 Lauren Cappello gave birth to Dominic, her second child. But what should have been a time for celebration for Lauren and her husband Michael was instead one of great worry, as it became very clear soon after her son’s arrival that he was not well: he couldn’t hold down any milk.
Dominic was swiftly taken to NICU and underwent numerous invasive tests. Within a few days Lauren and Michael were delivered the devastating news that Dominic has Hirschsprung’s disease, a congenital condition whereby nerve cells are missing from part of the muscles in the large intestine which prevents the passing of stools.
Lauren’s heart sank. She understood the significance of this news all too well, as she had suffered the same disease as a child. She says: ‘Over the years I’d heard stories of when I was born just how difficult it was to get a diagnosis and how very sick I was. There were moments that were “touch and go” and Mum and Dad and the doctors weren’t sure I’d make it through the night. Fast-forward nearly 33 years and I am reliving what my parents went through. It’s like history repeating itself.’
The news, however, was a double blow, because they learned Dominic has an extremely rare and severe form of Hirschsprung’s disease affecting the majority of his bowel. There are only a few recorded cases in Australia and the prognosis is not good. A week after he was born Lauren and Michael were asked to think about palliative care. ‘My world was ripped apart. We decided we would keep going, keep loving our son, keep hoping, keep praying.’
Lauren calls Dominic her amazing little hero, and rightly so. He’s already endured four surgical operations to remove the diseased parts of his bowel, including all of his large bowel. He’s been left with just 40 centimetres of his small bowel, and there may be further operations to come. ‘It’s beyond heartbreaking to watch our tiny bub endure so much.’
The impact of Dominic’s illness on the family has, of course, been enormous. While Lauren spends most of her time in hospital by Dominic’s side, Michael has left his job to look after Dominic’s two-year-old sister Savanna. The Cappellos have received ongoing support from family and friends, for which Lauren and Michael are truly grateful. ‘Our amazing family and friends have been pillars of strength when we’ve needed them,’ says Lauren.
On 8 May 2016, Mother’s Day, Lauren decided to share her son’s journey in a heartfelt post within the Inner West Mums Facebook group, of which she is a member. ‘Today, I’m so proud to be his mum,’ she wrote. ‘I may not be able to cuddle him much or even feed him but I’m standing by him 100 per cent and will always be here for him.’ Her post struck a chord with the group and drew an outpouring of kind words and offers of assistance. Lauren has been buoyed by the generous response from the community. ‘I’m feeling so much better knowing we have so many prayers and so much support behind us,’ she says.
Last week the family received the joyful news that Dominic will be able to come home in approximately four weeks’ time. ‘There’ll be medical equipment galore,’ says Lauren. ‘He’ll be on IV nutrition, called total parenteral nutrition or TPN, for life. All his nutritional needs will be given via a central line, bypassing the digesting system. But he’ll be home with us and we’ll be a family for the first time ever. Michael and I are adamant we can get him through this.’
The family has set up a Facebook page so supporters can follow Dominic’s fight against Hirschsprung’s disease.
http://Dominic’s Fight Against Hirschsprungs Disease
Donations can be made via a GoFundMe campaign.