Parenting is full of firsts.
Their first breath. Their first step. Their first full night of sleep. Their first holiday. Making it to their first birthday feels like a triumph.
Anthony and Carrie Daly became first-time parents seven years ago when Anthony Daly IV, aka "Little Tony" — lover of Beyblades, Tom Brady and tennis — was born 14 weeks early.
Under three pounds and only 26 weeks along, Tony had a fight ahead of him.
His parents didn't know for sure that he'd grow up to be the first grader he is today. All they knew was that he was born with a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) — when an opening that allows a mother's oxygenated blood to bypass the lungs and flow directly into her child's heart does not close as it should after birth, inhibiting growth — and his intestines weren't getting enough blood flow.
Tony's doctors knew that they needed to take action.
The standard options at the time were placing a baby on respiratory support to see if the defect sealed on its own or conducting a risky surgical procedure to close the PDA. But Tony's family found hope in the Amplatzer Piccolo Occluder — a minimally invasive treatment for PDA closure in premature infants which at the time was becoming available only through a clinical trial.
Tony's parents were understandably anxious.
"He was no bigger than my hand, and they were going to insert this little device with a catheter through an incision in his leg," Anthony said.
At that point, things had been touch-and-go for some time, and Tony's parents were desperate for any solution. "They don't give you an instruction manual on how to care for a baby at two and a half pounds," Anthony said. "Every day we worried that he wouldn’t make it. When doctors tell you that it’s life or death … "
He trailed off.
So Tony's next "first" would be as patient zero for the use of the Amplatzer Piccolo Occluder for PDA closure in preemies. "This had never been done before. We had to base all of our faith and trust in his doctor, and we did," Carrie said.
And sure enough, Tony received the tiny Piccolo device in his heart.
"Instantly after the procedure, his color changed," Anthony said. "Every worry that we had started to subside."
His growth chart steadily increased. His care team let his parents know that he didn't need to see them for regular check-ins anymore. Tony grew into the happy, healthy 7-year-old he is now.