19-month-old facing issues that stump doctors

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 10, 2015

Journee Katauskas, the 19-month-old girl who was born with her intestines outside her body, is once more fighting a trying battle.

Journee is the daughter of Jesika Carnley and Chris Katauskas of Florala.

To find out how you can help, click here.

“Her doctors specialize in stomach issues, and they’re all lost,” Chris said. “The doctors are contacting specialists around the U.S. looking for second opinions, they’re doing everything they can not to remove Journee’s stomach.”

Journee’s initial condition, gastroschisis, is a birth defect of the abdominal (belly) wall, which causes the baby’s intestines to grow outside of the baby’s body, through a hole beside the belly button. It’s estimated that about 1,871 babies are born each year in the U.S. with gastroschisis.

Journee survived that ordeal, but has since met with more issues.

“We did a liver biopsy when she was a year old, after spending six months in the hospital, and everything looked good,” Chris said. “Journee has been happy-go-lucky, bouncing around everywhere, but she just started getting sick last month.”

Chris said that Journee has never really been able to eat regular food and is on a prescription formula. In December, she started getting sick from her formula and he said she’s been in and out of doctors’ office since then.

“We went to Andalusia Regional Hospital twice and Mizell Memorial Hospital once for what they said was a stomach bug,” Chris said. “The whole time her stomach was closing off, that’s why she wasn’t holding anything down.”

Chris said they took her to USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Mobile, and she’s been admitted since New Year’s Day.

“Journee’s on TPNs (total parenteral nutrition), which are nutrients given through an IV, and they put a centerline to her heart which administers antibiotics,” Chris said.

Test results this week have not been favorable for the young family, and the removal of Journee’s stomach is a real possibility.

“The doctors did a scope test a couple days ago, and they said they’ve never seen a case like this,” Chris said. “They said her stomach looked like a 70-year-old man that’s been drinking his whole life. The walls of your stomach are supposed to be smooth, but Journee’s look like roughed up hamburger meat.

“They said there’s nothing normal about Journee,” he said. “It’s not like we’ve come in and she’s had the common flu, and they know how to treat it. They’re clueless pretty much.”

Journee’s grandmother, Rachel Cook, has been updating family on Facebook about what’s being done by the doctors.

“The medication has not cleared the ulcers so that means that her stomach is still blocked,” Cook said in a Facebook post. “During the scope procedure, they found a polyp that they think might be the problem to the blockage, so they busted it up. Now they will eject her with some dye and see if busting the polyp helped.”

Chris said the past month has been very hard on everyone.

“This month has been hard, my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and she’s home with hospice right now,” Chris said. “Before this happened, I was sitting with my mother and now that Journee’s sick I have to be here with her.

“As soon as we pulled up to the ER, our tire went flat in our car,” he said. “If it’s not one, thing it’s another, and it’s very overwhelming.”

Chris said Journee had just recently been so happy and carefree, and that she can capture anyone’s heart.

“She’s a tough cookie, if anybody can pull off anything, it’s that little girl,” Chris said. “She’s pretty amazing, and she’ll show you miracles really can come true.

“She just wants to be normal,” he said. “She wants to eat and drink and play without having to be stuck by needles.”