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Med school graduate hopes to advocate for families after her newborn battles rare defect

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Posted at 2:39 PM, May 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-13 19:17:41-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo — On this Mother’s Day weekend, a medical school graduate is determined to use her new degree to advocate for her child.

Elle Quinn walked across the stage on Saturday morning, not only for herself, but also for her son, Samuel.

Quinn and her husband found out during 15-weeks of pregnancy that their son would be born with congenital diaphragmatic hernia, a defect that causes a hole in his diaphragm.

It can cause his abdominal organs to move up into his chest and hinder his lung and heart from developing properly.

It was hard for me because as a mom, your number one job is to protect them,” Quinn said.

As a medical student at the time, she was hyper-aware of the risks. She says having that knowledge was both a blessing and a curse.

“When he got into really bad situations, I knew that there wasn’t much left that they could do to help him," Quinn said. "But then on the other hand, because of my medical knowledge, I was able to advocate for him a lot and read his signs of what was going on."

After spending three months in the NICU at Children’s Mercy Hospital, Samuel miraculously defeated all odds and pulled through.

During the first few months of his life, he underwent surgery and relied on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, a form of life support used for people with life-threatening heart and lung problems.

“He was one of the most severe and he pulled through. So he really is a little miracle, and aside from his health issues," Quinn said. "I actually had three pregnancy losses before him, so he was my little miracle baby from the start."

Now, Quinn hopes their story can be an inspiration for other families who walk a similar path.

She says she will continue to use her platform as a doctor to advocate and educate others.

“Try to speak to moms who go through similar situations — whether it’s pregnancy loss, or having babies in the NICU, family members that have health issues in general," Quinn said. "It can feel very isolating when you’re the only one going through it; hold onto hope that things can change.”