10 May 2023

It was heartbreaking – how this mum’s instinct saved baby Jack

| Samuel Davis
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Jack on a scenic RFDS flight near Birdsville with the RFDS.

BABY Jack appeared to be a happy, healthy and even slightly plump newborn – but Weipa mum Liz Weidman just knew that her baby wasn’t well.

“I thought I was crazy at first,” the young mum said of her then three-week-old son.

“The signs weren’t that dramatic – there was no fever or other symptoms – but nothing was staying down.

“It became obvious pretty quickly that something was wrong.”

Concerned, Liz and husband Jacob sought a doctor’s opinion.

“The worst case scenario is you’re wrong,” she said.

“But if you’re right, you’re potentially saving your child’s life.”

Mum’s gut instincts were spot on – young Jack was diagnosed with pyloric stenosis, a potentially life-threatening condition where a muscle blocks food from entering the small intestine.

“It wasn’t something I’d ever heard of,” Liz said.

“We’d only been back home for about a week and he was a very healthy baby to that point.

“He was very lucky that he was quite big for his age.

“With his condition you can become malnourished and dehydrate very quickly.

“You don’t want to think about it but if it went undiagnosed he could’ve died.

“If we waited a few more days he would’ve gone hungry and it would’ve been very hard to bounce back.”

Baby Jack in the Townsville Hospital children’s ward.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service’s expert aeromedical team whisked mum and infant more than 1000 kilometres south to Townsville hospital.

“Jack had key-hole surgery the next day,” Liz said.

“The surgeon was familiar with the diagnosis and afterward we had a few days in the ward.”

“It was definitely distressing. I also had an 18-month old son (Riley) at the time. To be separated as a family was the hardest part.”

For Jacob, seeing healthcare professionals treat his young son was an awe-inspiring experience.

“The way everybody took care of our little fella – this little Coke-can sized human – how their day revolved around making someone better was unreal,” he said.

“The Flying Doctors really were angels in the sky for us.”

Liz and Jacob Weidman with their sons Jack and Riley at Fruit Bat Falls.

Jack and Liz returned to Weipa but within a week the tot took yet another turn for the worse.

Again, the RFDS were called and Jack returned to Townsville.

“Normally one round of surgery rectifies it quite quickly,” Liz said.

“But sometimes that muscle just keeps growing. This time they created a longer and larger incision.

“They explained to us that it was going to be a bigger surgery this time. That’s obviously more risky. It was heartbreaking.”

Thankfully, the surgery was a success and within two weeks Jack had made a full recovery.

Three years on, only some small scars on Jack’s abdomen serve as a reminder of his health ordeal.

“I think being so little he wasn’t in a lot of pain. Pretty soon, he was back to his normal self and started gaining weight,” Liz said.

The Weidmans said they’re deeply grateful to the team of doctors and nurses who came to their son’s rescue.

“We are a pretty private family but anything we can do to pump up the Flying Doctors we’ll do,” Jacob said.

“They helped save our little fella twice.”

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