2018-02-08 / News

Team Knox-Knox Strong

After weeks of tests, procedures, Gaines Twp. couple looks forward to bringing their boys home
BY LANIA ROCHA
810-452-2652 • lrocha@mihomepaper.com


Knox Chittick remains under close watch at Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. Knox Chittick remains under close watch at Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. GAINES TOWNSHIP – At a home in Gaines Township, there’s a room all decorated in a woodland theme with bears and moose and plaid, just waiting for the two little boys who will most likely raise many a ruckus there someday.

But for now, the room is quiet and still.

The impending birth of the Chittick boys, Knox Matthew and Colt Lee, came as quite a surprise to parents Matt and Chelsea Chittick.

“We weren’t planning to have more children,” said Chelsea. The couple has a 5-year-old daughter, Penny. “We found out in July that we were having twins and, in August, we had a gender reveal party. We started getting their room ready as soon as we found out they were boys.”

The Chitticks were nervous. Twins are a lot of work, especially with a kindergartner at home.


The Chittick family – Chelsea (holding Knox), Matt (holding Colt) and Penny – share some family time at the hospital. The Chittick family – Chelsea (holding Knox), Matt (holding Colt) and Penny – share some family time at the hospital. “Penny didn’t really understand at first,” Chelsea said. “Then she was excited. Then she said she wished they were girls.”

The Chitticks started thinking about names and otherwise preparing for the kinds of adventures that two little boys will most certainly bring to their lives.

But in October, when Chelsea went for the babies’ monthly growth scan, she got some news she wasn’t expecting.

“They found something wrong with one of the babies’ heart,” she said. “We were referred to Hurley the next day; there was a specialist on hand. They did an ultrasound and said the right side of (Knox’s) heart was underdeveloped.”

The following weeks brought more tests and trips to Ann Arbor. By the end of October, the Chitticks received a diagnosis of hypoplastic right heart syndrome.

“Basically, the right side of the heart is underdeveloped and there’s no blood flow to the lungs,” Chelsea said. “They said he would need open heart surgery immediately after birth. We didn’t know what to think. It was devastating.”

Doctors continued to monitor the babies’ progress in the weeks leading to their Jan. 25 due date. They decided to induce labor at 38 weeks – on Jan. 10 – but those Chittick boys had other plans and, on Jan. 8, Matt and Chelsea Chittick were making a mad dash to Ann Arbor.

After 17 hours of labor, Chelsea delivered Colt at 5:09 a.m., and Knox at 5:19 a.m.; and while she was able to cuddle Colt, Knox was whisked away and hooked up to IVs to get the blood flowing to his lungs.

“We knew it was coming, but …,” Chelsea said.

Over the next several days, the medical team worked out a plan of action.

“They weren’t sure how they wanted to do the surgery,” Chelsea said. “First, they were just going to do a stent, then they were going to redirect the blood flow through a shunt. They couldn’t decide because every baby is different. They were ready to take him to do the stent and another cardiologist came in and suggested we try something different, so we waited.”

And there were other complications. When Knox’s breathing tube was removed so he could have a CT scan, his lung collapsed. Then an infection set in. Doctors finally performed the surgery Jan. 15, inserting a shunt to direct blood flow to the right ventricle of Knox’s heart, Chelsea said. A balloon in the pulmonary artery helps blood flow to the lungs, she said.

“They’re hoping, with the shunt and opening the artery, that it will help the right ventricle grow on its own,” she said.

Chelsea and Colt have been spending their nights at the Ronald McDonald House since being released from the hospital. During the day, they are by Knox’s side or waiting for him to return from another x-ray or echocardiogram.

Late last week, Knox was moved from the intensive care unit to the pediatrics unit. Chelsea is hoping to have her family home in a couple of weeks.

“The biggest thing is getting him to eat out of a bottle,” she said. “We will need a heart monitoring system and we’ll have to keep tabs on his breathing as he sleeps. We still have to monitor his oxygen because he’s still learning to breathe, but we’re hoping he won’t need (the oxygen) by the time we get home.”

Matt and Penny visit on weekends, although Penny had a bout of the flu and missed out on one visit. Other family members visit often and help take care of Penny back home.

“I talk to Penny every night,” said Chelsea. “There were a couple times when she missed me or missed her dog, but she likes having all the sleep-overs (with relatives).

“Colt is doing good. He likes to be held. We put him in with Knox every couple of days and they hang out together. They’re both very alert and they like to watch things. Knox has a little fish tank mobile that he likes to look at and listen to the music. I’m the only one who has been able to hold Knox so far. It’s hard to see him laying there and not be able to help him.”

The Chitticks have health insurance that covers 80 percent of their costs, but the bills are piling up, as are the expenses for traveling between Gaines Township and Ann Arbor.

Friends Sarah Fowler and Jamie Kingsland have set up a gofundme account under the title “Team Knox- Knox Strong” for anyone who wishes to help the Chitticks. For more information, visit https://www.gofundme.com/ team-knoxknox-strong.

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