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Rare surgery saves Holbrook infant's life

Linda and Joseph Belluscio with their son Dominic

Linda and Joseph Belluscio with their son Dominic at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip. (March 20, 2013) Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

For Linda and Joseph Belluscio of Holbrook, it will be a tale told at their son's future birthday parties.

For Dr. Vinci Jones, a surgeon at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, it may be a case for a medical journal.

Soon after Dominic was born on Jan. 21, he had trouble feeding and his stomach was distended, which doctors attributed to gas.

But by Feb. 25, his stomach had swollen further and was rock-hard. A gastroenterologist urged the parents to take the ailing infant to the hospital immediately.

Jones, the chief of Good Samaritan's pediatric surgery program, decided to do exploratory surgery, and what he found, he said, was highly unusual. He removed about three cups of infected liquid from the infant's abdomen and appendix, which was triple its normal size. Jones said Dominic had suffered from a gastric leak -- probably brought on by stress from his birth -- that had led to a massive infection in the stomach cavity.

Removing the infection and preventing it from spreading saved his life, Jones said Wednesday at a hospital news conference.

"If it wasn't for Dr. Jones deciding he was not going to wait but going to operate, we don't know would have happened," Linda Belluscio said.

Jones said gastric leaks in newborns are rare but are usually large enough to be quickly detected and surgically closed. What made this "unique," the surgeon said, was that it was such a slow leak, taking place over weeks, and not something that doctors would likely look for.

"It's worth writing up in the literature," said Jones, who said he hasn't decided to which journal the case report will be submitted.

Dominic, who went home Wednesday after 20 days in the hospital, will be monitored closely, but Jones said his prognosis is good.

"It was remarkable that he was resilient enough to withstand this process for that period of time," the surgeon said.

For the parents, who celebrated their first wedding anniversary while Dominic was in the hospital, being able to take their first child home was sweet. Linda Belluscio, 35, said Dominic had spent more time in the hospital than at home.

The new mother said she and her husband, 32, were looking forward to "just having a normal life."

"Really, we just want to be a family," she said.

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