Kid Captain: Ty Buffington

Oct. 28, 2011

IOWA CITY, Iowa — When Candi Buffington gave birth to twins 15 weeks prematurely at Genesis Medical Center in Davenport in July 2006, she and husband Brandon knew their tiny babies faced enormous health challenges. Ty and his sister Lindsay each weighed approximately 20 ounces–about the same as a bottle of soda.

“They were both so small and so fragile,” Candi says. “We were so scared they weren’t going to make it.”

Ty and Lindsay were transported immediately to the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), which offers the most comprehensive, advanced care in Iowa for premature or critically ill babies. Thus began a long “journey” of around-the-clock care for the Buffington children–slow, steady progress but also complications and setbacks. Ty spent the first 448 days of his life in the NICU; for Lindsay, it was 118 days.

“Imagine seeing your babies hooked up to more monitors and machines than you’d ever thought possible,” Candi says. “There were days when Ty was the sickest baby in the NICU. I watched him be resuscitated several times.”

“They did everything to prepare us. They taught us how to manage Ty’s needs and made us believe we could do it on our own.”
Brandon Buffington

From the start, Ty required numerous procedures, therapies, and medications to help him breathe and gain strength. Ty’s lungs were underdeveloped–a complication of prematurity–so at 7 months old, pediatric surgeons inserted a breathing tube, or trach, connected to a ventilator. Over the following months, the UI medical team monitored Ty’s progress with the breathing machine. They also worked with Candi and Brandon on how to use the equipment and how to help Ty adjust to his new surroundings and stay healthy once he was able to go home. By the time Ty was ready to leave the hospital at 15 months old, his parents felt both knowledgeable and confident.

“They did everything to prepare us,” Brandon says, “They taught us how to manage Ty’s needs and made us believe we could do it on our own.”

At home, Ty gradually became less dependent on the ventilator, and by age 4 doctors closed his trach opening for good. Today, he’s making friends at preschool, taking swimming lessons, and having fun “just being a kid,” his dad says.

Candi and Brandon visited UI Children’s Hospital every day of the twins’ hospitalizations. Lindsay faced her own serious health challenges, including a buildup of fluid in her brain that required multiple surgeries. Ty and Lindsay continue to face medical issues that require specialized care, but they’re making steady progress towards a healthier future.

For the Buffingtons, it’s simple: UI Children’s Hospital “means hope.”

“They never gave up on our twins,” Candi adds. “They explained things to us, sat with us when we cried, celebrated holidays with us, and even threw a party for the kids’ first birthday. They’re amazing.”

“Dr. Klein (Jonathan Klein, MD, medical director of the NICU), nurses like Gloria (Palmer) and Carolyn (Walker), and the entire staff–they’re just a wealth of knowledge and experience and caring,” Brandon adds. “They were determined to do the best for our kids.”

Watch Ty’s story HERE.