When will my child be able to come home?

When your child is off ECMO and is considered stable, your doctor may arrange to send your child to a hospital closer to home. Although it may feel frightening to leave Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, this is a positive step for you and your child.

To go home, your child needs to be medically stable and gaining weight on regular feedings. Many babies have difficulty swallowing after ECMO. We are uncertain why this occurs; the muscles may be sore after the tube was removed from the throat, or the child may be feeling weak after having been so ill. Whatever the cause, these feeding problems are usually temporary and will most likely go away over the next few months. If your child is swallowing poorly and unable to take enough food, a tiny plastic tube, called an NG, will be placed through your child's nose or mouth into the stomach. This allows the child to get the food and the calories he needs to grow. Nurses and occupational therapists will help you learn the correct way to feed your child. Keep in mind that the feeding problems will probably go away with time and patience.

While you have hoped for the day when your child would go home, it is often accompanied by mixed feelings. Besides your feelings of happiness and relief there may be feelings of anxiety, loneliness and uncertainty. A period of adjustment is normal. Be patient with yourself and your child.

Any other specific problems or areas that need attention are looked at before your child leaves the hospital. Your pediatrician lets you know about any special tests that may need to be done at a later time.