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A Christmas Miracle: Zachariah Joseph Tumalski's holiday birth a special gift

Published on Tuesday, February 05, 2019

a special feature by the Petoskey-News Review Journalist Steve Foley

For Teryn LeVoy and Norbert Tumalski, Christmas 2018 is never to be forgotten. On that holiday, the Boyne City couple received what they consider their best gift ever: their son, Zachariah Joseph Tumalski.

His introduction into the world, however, was far from typical. “It’s still kind of surreal to me, to be honest,” said LeVoy, who’s a nurse at McLaren Northern Michigan hospital. “He’s definitely the best Christmas present I could ask for.”

On the Sunday before Christmas, Dec. 23, LeVoy went into McLaren to be inducted into labor. She had previously been induced with her oldest daughter, 12-year-old Arabella, as well as her 11-year-old son, Benjamin. “Everything had gone fine with them and I didn’t want a C-section,” LeVoy said. “My due date was Dec. 21 and I didn’t want things to go any further along. It was important to me to have a natural birth if I could help it instead of a C-section.”

As LeVoy termed it, a number of issues just kept going wrong soon after her arrival at the hospital. “Nothing wrong with the staff, they didn’t do anything wrong,” LeVoy said. “Things just weren’t lining up for me to be induced the right way or on time.”

Finally, on Christmas Day, Tuesday, Dec. 25, her contractions were back on track and her water broke. “All of a sudden, his head come out no problem,” LeVoy said. “But he had something known as shoulder dystocia.”

Shoulder dystocia is a complication that occurs during delivery when an infant’s shoulders become lodged in the mother’s pelvic, often because the baby is proportionately too big for the birth canal. Shoulder dystocia is also often referred to as cephalopelvic disorder, or CPD for short.

“The doctor (Dr. Joseph Sypniewski) couldn’t get him out,” LeVoy said. “And when he did get him out he was clinically dead. He wasn’t breathing, didn’t have a heart beat.

"It was a really traumatic birth,” LeVoy said. “There was a nurse on top of my stomach pushing to help open up my pelvis and they had to call the code team to do compressions to resuscitate and ventilate him. It was really traumatic, he was clinically dead when he was born.”

Quick thinking and actions by a number of medical staff — such as obstetrics nurses Laurie Laughbaum and Dianne Rinock, who called the code before Zachariah was fully out of the birth canal, and anesthesiologist Alexander Lipman — helped in bringing about a happier outcome on Christmas Day.

“I could’ve potentially had him on Christmas Eve, but there wasn’t the staff available,” LeVoy said. “I end up having him on Christmas Day, which I would’ve thought would’ve been even less staff available, but Dr. Joe (Sypniewski) was on, Laurie was on and she’s been a NICU nurse there for 30 years before they closed it down, she knew exactly what to do as did my nurse, Dianne.

“It was so many different things that went right for everybody to come together and bring him back, it was unbelievable.”

Born at 11:59 a.m., Zachariah was intubated two minutes later at 12:01 p.m. because Lipman was available.

“The anesthesiologist showed up and he wasn’t even supposed to be there,” LeVoy said. “Just so many different things happened. It really was a miracle because I almost didn’t get to go home with my baby.”

Zachariah was airlifted to Munson Medical Center in Traverse City the same day he was born, and before LeVoy could even get a chance to hold him.

“We didn’t get to hold him until the next day after I was discharged,” LeVoy said. “He stayed there (at Munson) for three days. It couldn’t have been a better outcome and I’m eternally grateful for everyone at McLaren, they were just phenomenal. The outcome could’ve been a lot different if not for them.”

Zachariah Joseph Tumalski and his family visited McLaren on Monday of this week for a celebration of life with the team that helped save his life.

“For them (staff at McLaren), it was traumatic and they’d never seen anything like it before,” LeVoy said. “It was nice to get some closure for them and for them to see how he’s doing because often with HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which addresses patient privacy and security), they don’t know what happens after they leave here.”

Zachariah weighed 11 pounds, 15 ounces at birth, and LeVoy claims she only gained 10 pounds during her entire pregnancy.

“I actually lost weight at one point,” LeVoy said. “I’m a nurse, I’m on my feet 16-18 hours a day sometimes by the time I get home. I’m just constantly walking.”

The couple didn’t plan to give Zachariah a middle name. Following the events of his birth, though, Joseph — in honor of Dr. Joseph Sypniewski — only seemed fitting, LeVoy said.

“His father Norbert is Polish, he was born and raised in Poland and we thought Zachariah Tumalski would already be a mouthful for him to learn his own name,” LeVoy said.

With Zacariah now more than 40 days old, he and his and mother are doing just fine.

“He’s doing amazing, he looks like he’s about six months old, he’s a big boy,” LeVoy said. “He’s happy and doing great, we’re very, very blessed.”

LeVoy said a blessing is the fact her son didn’t suffer any common symptoms or injuries others born with shoulder dystocia typically have, such as brachial plexus palsy, broken bones or facial injuries.

“What’s amazing is his clavicle wasn’t broken, he didn’t have any nerve damage in his arms, but with his size and the fact of what it was, it’s not uncommon to have something and he had nothing,” LeVoy said. “Other than some swelling and bruising, that was it.

“It’s just amazing.”