Olivia Raine


Olivia Raine Richards was born August 31st, 2002 to Charles and Kimberly Richards. Olivia, was born at the University of Michigan with a birth defect called congenital diaphragmatic hernia or CDH. CDH occurs in approximately every 2500-3000 births.  Congenital means something you are born with.  A diaphragmatic hernia is where the diaphragm doesn’t form completely, so there is a “hole” in the diaphragm.  Because of this “hole”, the abdominal organs float into the chest cavity, preventing the lungs from growing properly. There are different severities of CDH.  Olivia’s was very seveve.  Her left side of the diaphragm did not form so her stomach, intestines, and some of her liver were in her chest. Even one of her kidneys was starting to float towards her chest.  She had very little lung tissue which meant she was unable to breath on her own.  After her birth, she was placed on a ventilator to help her breath.

The 2nd day of Olivia’s life was a difficult one.  The ventilator wasn’t enough to keep her oxgen levels up.  She needed to be put on a machine called ECMO.  This is a heart and lung bypass machine.  It stands for Extracorpeal Membrane Oxgenation. This machine takes the blood out of her body, reoxegenates the blood and sends it back into her body. Usually,  2 small tubes (or cannulas) are placed into the carotid artery and vein in the neck and this is how the blood is removed and replaced.  Olivia was a smaller baby, 5lbs 13oz.  Because of her size, the vein in her neck was too small for the tube.  The doctors had to surgically place one of the tubes directly into her heart. ECMO does the job of the heart and lungs and is commonly used in babies born with CDH.  It allows the lungs to rest and a chance to further develop.

Olivia, though, still needed surgery to fix her diaphragm.  With ECMO, a blood thinner is used to keep blood clots from forming in the ECMO machine.  Because of this,  excessive bleeding is a problem.  The goal was to try to get her off of ECMO before having surgery. They tried several times to see if she could handle being off of ECMO, but her lungs still were not strong enough.  They also started her on steroids to help with lung growth.

After 2 weeks on ECMO, the doctors decided to do her surgery while on ECMO.  There was more risk invloved with doing the surgery on ECMO, but Olivia needed the surgery to give her a chance to progress.

On September 16, Olivia had her surgery.  They closed off the Neonatal ICU at 2:45pm. They didn’t finish her surgery until almost 6:00pm.  This is when they discovered she had no left diaphragm. They used something called a Gortex patch to make a diaphragm for her. Now we needed her to recover from surgery and give her lungs a chance to work.  They also needed to watch her for bleeding.

On September 18,  she was not doing well. She was bleeding alot. It looked like there was a blood clot near her chest tube.  The doctors put her on a drug to help decrease the bleeding and they also believed she had a blood clot.  We discussed doing a surgery to remove the clot the following day.

The next day we arrived at the hospital early, the doctors were not sure what time they would do her surgery. Just by looking at her we new that surgery was not going to happen that day.  Her fingers and toes were starting to turn “blueish”. The nurses agreed that she was not doing well.  It was just a matter of waiting for the doctors to come see her. In the meantime, we all (Olivia’s family) visited her throughout the day.  At 7:00pm, the word came from the doctors that surgery would not be in her best interest. Her kidneys were also starting to shut down.  The next step was disconnecting her from life support.  The nurses dressed her and closed up the NICU to prepare her for us to hold. Olivia was finally held for the 1st time by her parents, grandma’s and aunt.  At 8:30pm,  Olivia was disconnected from life support and passed away in the arms of her father.

Olivia is deeply loved and dearly missed!!