PLEASANT RIDGE — William and Shae Janelle were 3-month-old twins in September 2012. The two were born six weeks premature, but, by all accounts, seemed healthy.
Then, William vomited. Hours later, he was on a surgical table at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak having an aneurysm clipped while his parents, Bill and Kathy, sat in the hospital waiting room fearing the worst but hoping for the best.
As William and Shae prepare to celebrate their first birthday June 25, the family is still dealing with the outcome of William’s trip to the hospital, which resulted in four surgeries. William has to go to some type of therapy or rehab almost every day, but for a family that was told to say their goodbyes nine months ago, every day has been a gift since.
“Your mind still goes to feeling sorry and wishing it had not happened to him, or that you could trade places with him, but I always go back to what the neurosurgeon said early on, that this is a pretty amazing recovery,” Bill Janelle, 37, said. “At this point, our sole focus is to give him every opportunity to heal as we can. All the work we do at home and what he does in therapy, he continues to improve and get better.”
Kathy Janelle was at home with her newborn twins and daughter Rowan last September when William vomited. Kathy said she initially thought William had the flu or a bug of sorts, so she put the twins down for a nap.
When William awoke, Kathy said he was not himself and she had her father come over to babysit the others so she could take William to the pediatrician’s office.
That’s when William stopped breathing.
Without notice, Kathy’s mother arrived just as William stopped breathing and she rushed mom and son to the pediatrician’s office, where William was given oxygen and an ambulance came to take the family to Beaumont.
“It was a very normal morning, and when he vomited, I asked the pediatrician if I should be concerned and they just told me to monitor him,” Kathy, 40, said. “It turned into a parent’s worst nightmare. As soon as one of the doctors came in and said they wanted to take us to a private room to tell us William’s condition, of course we knew it was serious.
“That’s when she told us William had a giant mass, which was a tumor.”
William had already had a surgery to put a drain in his head to release pressure before they started to prepare to operate on the supposed tumor. Surgeons told Bill and Kathy to prepare for a 10-hour surgery, but right before, radiology called to say they were dealing with an aneurysm.
Bill and Kathy did not know about the change, so they were surprised to see a surgeon after only a few hours.
“Next thing we know, the surgeon comes out after four or five hours, much earlier than we anticipated, and I looked at my wife and said this is really good or really bad,” Bill said. “She started to explain to us that it was a very successful surgery; they clipped the aneurysm and it was only a matter of time to see how he responded.”
William’s stay in the hospital spanned about a month and a half, and he had to have two more surgeries — one to remove the drain in his head and the final one to place a shunt in his head to drain the excess fluid into his abdomen.
It was a scary stay in the hospital, Bill said, but in the end, they knew they had to be there for their son.
“We asked a lot of questions at first, like as parents, did we do something wrong or did we miss something,” he said. “The answer was there was nothing we could have done. It formed abnormally, probably at birth, and it had been that way since he was in the womb, so it was only a matter of time before it ruptured.
“The course of treatment isn’t cut and dry what needs to be done, so we do our best to understand everything and see him through this.”
Upon bringing William home, Kathy said her son didn’t really make noises or say anything until around Christmas. A few days before Mother’s Day, he made “baby noises like ‘mama.’”
Therapists say William is progressing at a great rate, but he is still about three months behind his twin sister in development. Still, Shae and Rowan, 2, have been great with their brother.
“It’s funny — both of them got the message that they needed to be perfect because William needs special attention and they have been great and wonderful,” Kathy said. “Rowan understands and she knows to be more gentle with him. (Shae) has no idea and she still tries to attack her brother.”
Neurosurgeons told the Janelles it was a good thing the aneurysm was found now, if it had to happen, as babies tend to rewire their brains better than if it happened to an adult. Bill said it has been pretty amazing to watch his son grow, even if it can be frustrating seeing him struggle because he wants the best for him.
But, when the family celebrates William and Shae’s birthday June 25, they are just happy to have the family together.
“To go from where we were basically told it wasn’t looking very good and we should say our goodbyes to taking it minute by minute and second by second, it has been tough,” Kathy said. “Now, where we are with him, every day is amazing progress. We were totally devastated then, and we prayed that a miracle would happen, and we feel like a miracle has happened.
“William is still with us and he is doing so well.”