Family fights for baby before he was even born

CREATED Jan. 25, 2013

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MILWAUKEE - It's a family that has already been through an unthinkable situation. Their miracle baby boy spent weeks in the hospital. He's finally home but there's still a road to travel. 

Calling baby Elijah Leffingwell a miracle is no stretch. At 10 weeks, he's fought more hardship than most will in a lifetime.

It all started when his mom was just 21 weeks into pregnancy. Doctors found a tumor.

"When they discovered it, it was measuring 1.6 times the size of his head," said mom April Leffingwell.

There was a rare tumor on her unborn son's lung. It's news April Leffingwell and husband Jason didn't expect doctors to deliver.

"I was petrified. I didn't know what was going to happen," recalled April.

It would require a rare, risky utero surgery, and a miracle. The chances of success were 50/50. Only 28 others had been performed. The last was done in 2006.

"They made an incision from hip bone and partially removed Elijah and then made an incision from the middle of his chest to the middle of his back," explained April.

"They cheered in the operating room when they removed his tumor. So that tells you the magnitude, the severity of it," Jason added.

The surgery was done at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The director and surgeon-in-chief at the hospital is a pioneer in utero surgeries.

Doctors put Elijah back inside April. But just shy of 34 weeks, she went into labor. Elijah was premature. And the list of medical hurdles grew. Elijah's lung that doctor's operated on collapsed.

"During surgery, they discovered they may have accidentally nixed his diaphragm which induced a hernia so his stomach went into his chest and his stomach ruptured," April said.

But Friday, after nine weeks in natal intensive care, Elijah, April and Jason returned home from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Home to kisses from his big sister and a church family singing praise for this young family's journey. One they say god's had a hand on all along.

"I told him the story of David and Goliath and I told him, this is your Goliath. And he's battled like a true warrior every single day," said Jason.

"He is a fighter. He is a warrior," said Jason. "He is a warrior. He won't let anything take him down. Nothing."

The Leffingwells face more hurdles. Among them -- a mountain of medical bills.

Eiijah's life support for nine days totaled $1 million. Nine weeks in the NICU -- almost another half a million.

They do have insurance but the burden is still high. Bills from staying in Philadelphia for three months and traveling to and from the hospital each day also added up.

You can help them out by donating to the Elijah Leffingwell fund at any Associated Bank.