Story of Healing
"Without Dr. Pettitt, my boy would not be alive today."
In 2009, the H1N1 influenza virus caused a 14-month long pandemic we remember as “swine flu.” The United States had over 50,000 confirmed cases of the virus, and one of those confirmed cases was Robert “Lil Boo” Maddox V, who lives with his parents, Robert and Renee, and four older sisters in a home along Cotile Lake in Rapides Parish, LA.
About a week before Lil Boo’s birthday, he was admitted to a hospital in Alexandria with high fever and abdominal pain, where Dr. Dean Edell, a pediatric pulmonologist with Children’s Hospital New Orleans, treated him. After nearly a week in the hospital with no improvement, Lil Boo was transported via helicopter to Children’s Hospital New Orleans where he was admitted to the PICU.
Lil Boo’s bout of swine flu caused him to develop a life-threatening lung issue that allows fluid to leak into the lungs, called Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, or ARDS. Boo experienced extreme symptoms including a swollen stomach, incredibly delicate skin, multiple organ failure, and an infection of mucormycosis. As a result, Boo had to endure harrowing treatments, including being intubated, numerous surgeries, and being placed on Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO), a type of life support system, for over 50 days.
“I felt powerless,” Boo’s father, Robert, remembered. “It was like walking into a battlefield with no armor.”
Throughout the 501 days that Boo spent in Children’s Hospital, Dr. Timothy Pettitt, a Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgeon, supervised his treatments, performed many of Boo’s procedures, and became a dear friend to the Maddox family.
“Without Dr. Pettitt, my boy would not be alive today,” shared Robert. Robert recounted multiple instances in which Boo’s condition would suddenly decline. As he was fighting for his life, Dr. Pettitt was by his side doing whatever it took to keep Boo alive and stable.
One of those instances included a time after Boo was removed from ECMO, and even though he was able to breathe on his own and was showing minor signs of improvement, he developed a bacterial infection in his lung, called pseudomonas. Dr. Pettitt performed a delicate surgery that required he remove two of Boo’s ribs in order to reach the infection and remove it. Against all odds, once again, Boo was able to recover from that surgery, and he began to improve significantly.
After spending two birthdays and two Christmases in the hospital, Boo was finally discharged. However, he suffered major complications as a result of his grueling battles. Ultimately, Boo required a kidney transplant. Several obstacles challenged Boo and his family on this second extended stay at an out of state hospital, but again, the Maddox family remained faithful that Boo would recover.
Boo’s mother, Renee, donated her kidney to Boo and the transplant was successful. According to Robert, Boo never experienced stomach pains again and was finally able to eat without concern for how it would negatively affect his condition.
“This whole journey was life changing,” said Robert. “The people we met along the way, including doctors, nurses, staff members, clergy members, and members of our community back home were incredibly generous and giving.”
Now, Boo is about to turn 18 years old and is able to live life to the fullest. Boo’s parents strongly believe that Boo lived because he is meant to do mighty things with his life.