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Logan’s Hope

“We’re pregnant.”

The news came as a surprise to Melanie and Josh Bankus. A big surprise. After fertility treatments brought two beautiful daughters into their lives, the couple was not expecting a third pregnancy. But at 37, Melanie, and Josh, 39, were going to welcome a new baby into their home in a rural town in the Poconos. “Logan came along to complete our family,” says Melanie.

With underlying medical conditions, Melanie was at high risk for developing complications during her pregnancy. A scan at 20 weeks showed Logan was measuring small. “They thought he was missing part of his brain and that he had increased ventricle fluid,” says Melanie. “We were on high alert and had appointments every week.”

At 23 weeks, Melanie, a middle school math teacher, and Josh a high school math teacher, were told that things did not look promising for their baby. They were asked if they wanted to terminate the pregnancy, but the couple chose to give Logan a fighting chance.  Three weeks later, Logan had reached a viable weight of one pound. As Melanie’s blood pressure continued rising, the doctors put her on hospital bed rest.  

Twenty-one days later, a sudden drop in Logan’s heartbeat required an emergency C-section, and on February 26, 2019, Logan was born at 29 weeks, 4 days. He weighed one pound, 8 ounces, and was less than a foot long. A tiny cry was music to his parents’ ears. “He sounded like a little kitten,” says Melanie, “but the doctor said he was born, he was here, and he was breathing.”

Logan was whisked to the neonatal intensive care unit where his fragile lungs were given the support they needed. Two days later, Melanie was discharged. That night, Logan went into respiratory distress. He had to be intubated for ventilator support to help him breathe. During the procedure, Logan’s tiny esophagus was punctured. Logan needed to be transferred to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for a higher level of care for micro-preemies like him.

In the weeks that followed, Logan fought through one medical crisis after another. Now the goal was to wean Logan from the ventilator. Efforts were made five times to extubate Logan. Josh and Melanie will never forget one night in particular when they were returning to the NICU after a coffee break in the hospital cafeteria. As they were stepping off the elevator they heard a Code Blue over the intercom signaling a life-threatening emergency. It was Logan.

Josh and Melanie agonized as a team of doctors worked intently to revive their baby who had stopped breathing. “He had been without oxygen for about six minutes,” says Melanie. “They didn’t know if he had brain damage. It was the worst night of our lives.”

To his parents’ immense relief, Logan pulled through. He was proving to be the fighter Josh and Melanie hoped he would be. Doctors attributed Logan’s breathing problems to a narrowing of his airway. In early July 2019, Logan had a tracheostomy, a breathing tube surgically inserted through a hole in his throat and connected to a ventilator. Josh and Melanie, who had been staying at Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia with their daughters 10-year-old Julia and Gabrielle, 5, needed two months of training to learn the complexities of the trach and ventilator before Logan could go  home.

Logan Comes to Good Shepherd

Six weeks into their training, a new school year began, and Josh and Julia returned home. Not wanting to separate the family but still needing to complete their training, Josh and Melanie were told about the Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital Pediatric Unit in Bethlehem. They had never heard of the unit before, but it was an hour closer to their home than CHOP and was where they could continue ventilator training.

Josh and Melanie toured the unit. They liked what they saw. “The people were friendly and we were drawn into the three hours of (daily) therapy,” says Melanie. In September, Logan was admitted to Good Shepherd where he began occupational, speech, physical, respiratory, and recreational therapy. The interdisciplinary teamwork was essential given Logan’s breathing challenges. A delicate balance allowing him to get stronger and progress had to be struck without his oxygen saturation levels dropping too low.

From the beginning, Logan’s sweet spirit captivated his therapists. He was a happy baby and liked social interaction when he was lying in his crib. Picking Logan up, however, presented a challenge. His tolerance for being held out of his crib was limited to about 10 minutes. “I noticed very quickly that once you were touching him to facilitate any type of movement, it was so much for him that he would shut down socially,” says Colleen Tampier, a recreational therapist. “My goal at first was just to hold him, rock with him and get him to attend to my voice and not be overstimulated.”

Logan soon began making progress. “I remember within the first couple of weeks I was able to hold and engage him, and he smiled at me,” says Colleen. “We finally got it! It was a huge hurdle to get over.”

A Family Affair

Josh and Melanie especially liked Good Shepherd’s family-centered approach to Logan’s care. Julia and Gabrielle adored their baby brother. They spent hours with Logan reading to him, singing, engaging in gentle play, and showering him with affection. To do this safely, the girls learned how to navigate the trach and feeding tube.  “One of our goals for many of our kids is that sibling interaction,” says Colleen. “Right away Gabby started talking and he turned his entire head over to see and respond to her voice. I knew right away that was going to be a special bond. His sisters were going to be important to his recovery. Kids are motivated by other children, even at such a young age.”

Homecoming for Logan came on January 27, 2020. Staff and patients lined up to send off Logan with cheers, a few tears and a bubble parade, a rite of passage for all patients discharged from the unit. “It was very emotional,” says Melanie. “Seeing all the people that worked with Logan was a moment we will always remember. It was just awesome. We owe everything to them. With the proper support from everyone, we got to where we are today. We are forever grateful.”

In February, Logan celebrated his first birthday. He is gaining weight and has two new teeth. His baby-fine hair has a reddish tint, his cheeks are rosy, and he loves to play with his big sisters. Josh and Melanie are now focused on weaning Logan off the ventilator.  “My hope for the future is one day Logan will no longer need help from the vent and trach tube, and he will be able to breathe on his own,” says Melanie. 

Josh and Melanie are accustomed to teaching others, but Logan has taught them lessons not found in any book. “One of the biggest is to never give up,” says Melanie. “Even if you feel you’re in your darkest hour, always have hope. That’s the one word that has followed us through our journey. Logan has taught us that if you keep smiling, everything will get better.  Even in his toughest time, he had that heart-warming smile.”