It's a condition that’s as common as spina bifida or cystic fibrosis – but you've probably never heard of it.
Congenital diaphragmatic hernias occur in about one in every 2,000 births. They can be deadly, but now doctors are using a more aggressive treatment approach.
Two-year-old Lincoln Olds is happy and active today.
"He’s just a really fun kid. He likes to make people laugh," said Dorothy Olds, Lincoln’s mom.
But when his mom was pregnant with Lincoln, an ultrasound revealed a devastating diagnosis.
"We just wanted to know if we were having a boy or a girl. That’s what we went to find out, and they told us that our child might not survive," Olds said.
Lincoln had a congenital diaphragmatic hernia – essentially – a hole formed in his diaphragm.
"The intestines as a result of that go up into the chest, and they grow within the chest and actually prevent the lung from developing normally. If they make it to delivery, and they're alive, the survival rate is still about 60 percent," said Dr. Brad W. Warner, surgeon-in-chief at St. Louis Children's Hospital and professor of surgery at Washington University School of Medicine.
Lincoln was placed on a life support machine, known as ECMO, to give his body a chance to rest and oxygenate.
At first, he didn't respond, but after 12 days, Lincoln was breathing better. He then had surgery to reposition his organs and repair his hernia. After 83 days in the hospital, Lincoln went home. Doctors expect him to live a normal life and be a normal kid.
"He’s a wonderful child. It's really amazing," Olds said.
Lincoln is small for his age. Because he breathes faster, his body requires more calories, so getting him to eat is important. He also takes speech and occupational therapy to address some of the complications of the condition.
Children with these types of hernias sometimes develop heart failure, scoliosis, hearing difficulties and developmental delays.