Benefit planned for local baby
WORTHINGTON -- While parents of most 4-month-olds are keeping track of firsts -- the first time their baby sleeps through the night or the first time their baby rolls over -- little Elliot Kutzbach's parents fear each of their son's firsts may also be his last.
Elliot is battling numerous health issues, starting with a hydrocephalus diagnosis made during an ultrasound on Oct. 12, 2012. That afternoon, he arrived via emergency C-section in a Sioux Falls, S.D., hospital, weighing just 4 pounds, 13 ounces.
"There was bad blood flow through the placenta," explained Elliot's mom, Janet Amundson, of Worthington.
That was just one of the issues for the early delivery. The main problem was the hydrocephalus. Normally, fluid around a person's brain cushions it from blows. It is continually draining through the body as new fluid is created, but in Elliot's case, the fluid cannot exit his head because of a "bad narrowing" or complete blockage of one of the passages through the ventricles.
"He just keeps producing it, and it just can't go anywhere," Amundson said, adding that Elliot's head has become abnormally large.
Doctors have removed some of the excess fluid and relieving some pressure on the brain through ventricular taps -- the last tap was performed on Dec. 1, the day Elliot was finally released from the hospital.
At the time, doctors prepared Amundson and Elliot's father, Brian Kutzbach, for the reality that Elliot might only live a week or two.
Now, nearly 12 weeks later, Elliot has grown to nearly 13 pounds. He loves to snuggle with his mom despite being constantly medicated. He's on a two-hour regimen, alternating between doses of morphine and Tylenol, to help mask the headaches.
"He's hanging in there," Amundson said on Monday, following an appointment with Elliot's doctors in Sioux Falls. "They said if we put a (ventricular placement) shunt in or not, he will end up passing away. The shunt will just prolong his life a little.
"They're certain that he won't survive," she added.
Elliot suffered significant brain damage after his birth, the result of a salmonella infection. Amundson said they have been told by doctors that "very little" of Elliot's brain is working, and that he has lost most of his eyesight and hearing.
When he was brought home in December, the plan was to place Elliot in hospice care at the local cottage. However, they weren't set up to care for an infant, and ultimately decided the baby didn't qualify for their services. In-home hospice care was provided for two months, but that now has ended, and Amundson is relying on her parents and friends to help care for Elliot while she works in the production facility for Newport Labs. She is hopeful they can get Elliot some help through a child hospice program based in the Twin Cities.
"Both of our families have been really supportive and there for us through the surgeries and making the decision to put him in hospice," Amundson said. "Our friends have been a lot of help to us, too."
A benefit for Elliot and his parents will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday at the Pizza Ranch in Worthington. The family will get 10 percent of the money made from sales during those three hours, and a bucket at the front register will collect donations as well. Chena Persing, a friend of the family, has helped to organize the benefit.
Elliot's parents maintain a Caring Bridge website to keep family and friends updated on Elliot's health. His page may be viewed at www.caringbridge.org, entering elliotkutzbach in the "site" field.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.