Vickie Thompson had only a few blissful hours with her newborn son, Charlie, before their world was turned upside down.
Her little boy was Charlie was born seemingly as any baby should on August 12, but Vickie, 36, had just enough time to begin bonding when Charlie’s body began to shut down.
Unable to awaken the sleeping baby, the mum realised her son had not yet filled his nappy after his first feed, and his urine appeared unnaturally green.
Doctors quickly discovered the bub had been born without an anus, rushing him off to have his stomach pumped.
“I was absolutely petrified … I thought he was dying,” the British beautician said.
“The doctors said, ‘We don’t think he has an opening.’ I was so scared.”
Charlie was born with a rare congenital defect leaving him without a back passage, with no way to expel solid waste from his bowels after digestion.
The condition, named Imperforate anus, describing where the anus is missing or blocked, is a relatively common condition that occurs in about one in 5,000 infants, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Charlie was transferred to a neonatal intensive care unit where the doctors removed the contents of his stomach to ensure no toxins were left behind.
Specialists then installed a stoma, an opening on the abdomen that’s connected to the digestive or urinary system, which allows waste to be diverted out of the body.
Charlie spent two days in a medically induced coma, allowing for his new appendage to heal.
“I was petrified I was going to lose him,” Vickie shared. “They had to put him on life support and I kept thinking he was going to die. I kept thinking the worst.”
After seven days in the NICU, Vickie and her fiance, Alex, 37, were able to bring their son home.
“Being a first-time mum is an experience anyway, so having the stoma as well was hard,” Vickie admitted.
“It was very, very stressful and at times felt quite lonely because people were scared to deal with the stoma, so I had to do it all.
“Friends and family were scared to change his stoma in case they did it wrong and caused an infection. They couldn’t handle the risk. It has certainly been tough going.”
Charlie has had six lifesaving surgeries since his birth — with more on the way — including one previous attempt to create an opening for Charlie’s rear.
Unfortunately, the procedure caused his stoma to malfunction, forcing doctors to reverse course.
He then underwent an ileostomy, an operation that brings the end of the small bowel through an opening in the stomach, pushing it further out of the body, according to the National Health Service.
“Charlie became very poorly and couldn’t eat for 11 days. He was very vulnerable and malnourished,” Vickie said.
“The liquid coming out of the ileostomy was six times the amount that was going into his body, so he was on fluid drips with vitamins.”
Charlie has undergone four more major operations following this one, including one where a large part of his bowels which had died was removed.
He’s now under constant review by doctors, and they are unsure if the toddler will ever be able to be potty-trained. They expect he will spend his life with a stoma.
“This has caused him a lot of trauma. The key thing [for me] is spreading awareness and teaching mothers how to check their babies,” Vickie said.
“Despite everything, he’s such a happy baby.”