Baby Connor’s team “didn’t give up on him”




This boy’s welcome to the world may have been a little rocky, but he is thriving under the care of Riley specialists and the love of his parents.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer,

Connor Basques is eating up all the attention he’s getting on an early fall morning – literally and figuratively.

Connor, 8 months, is digging into some baby food during a feeding therapy appointment at Riley Hospital for Children. Sure, he might be wearing some of that food, but it’s all part of his progress.

“Not all kids like to eat like you,” said speech-language pathologist Kaitlyn Schmitt. “It makes my job so much more fun. I always say the messier we get, the more learning we’re doing.”

Born with cleft lip and palate, as well as a heart defect, the happy little boy had his lip repaired over the summer by Riley plastic surgeon Dr. Emma Cordes, so he is just learning to try baby food to supplement his feedings through a G-tube.

“After his lip surgery, he saw us in August and he had better head and neck control, Schmitt said. “That was a good sign for us that he was ready to start baby food. Developmentally, that head and neck control is a key sign that the child is able to focus on what’s in their mouth vs. keeping themselves upright.”

Connor was definitely focused on the food. He sampled bites of pureed green beans, pears, even cottage cheese and mashed potatoes.

At the mention of potatoes, he grins, and Schmitt laughs

“Does that make you happy? Potatoes make me happy too,” she said.

In fact, Connor is overall a happy, easygoing kid, his mom said. The only time he gets mad is when you take food away from him.

For Allie Basques, this is one in a series of appointments with Riley specialists who have cared for her son since he was transferred to Riley from another Indianapolis hospital at 1 month old.

He required open-heart surgery at that time to repair an aortopulmonary window, a defect in which there is a hole between the blood vessel that feeds the heart and the blood vessel going to the lungs.

Dr. Mark Rodefeld, a cardiothoracic surgeon, performed the operation. Riley is ranked sixth in the nation for its pediatric cardiology and heart surgery program.

It was a difficult stretch for Connor’s parents, who live in Monticello, Indiana. He remained at Riley for several weeks before going home for the first time. But there would be more emergency trips to Riley until things began to settle down.

Nicknamed “Rocky” by a family friend, Connor is doing well today, his mom said.

“He’s a trouper. He’s very popular and loved.”

He continues to see the cleft and craniofacial team at Riley and will have his cleft palate repaired at about a year old. His mom is hoping he might be able to taste a little birthday cake come January.

Connor also sees Riley cardiologist Dr. Larry Markham, ophthalmologist Dr. Daniel Neely and other specialists. Additionally, he is in physical and occupational therapy.

Basques said she wants to express her gratitude for all of her son’s care team.

“There were times when he was in the ICU right after surgery, when I felt like we almost lost him,” she said. “I wigged out, but I was scared and tired.”

She felt better after talking with a chaplain, and she has nothing but praise for the nursing team who looked after her son, including mother and daughter duo Peggy and Sydney Payne.

“It's been incredible to see the progress he’s made since I admitted him to our unit when he was just a few months old,” Sydney Payne said. “He is such a strong little guy with great parents who take amazing care of him.”

Part of the reason Basques wanted to share her story was to help other Riley parents going through difficult times.

“You’re going to be mad, depressed and scared. I’m a believer, but at that time I was mad at the world. I wanted other parents to know, no matter how scary it is, your kid is in the best hands,” she said.

“And for Connor, when he gets older, I want him to see how proud we are of him and how many people he has on his team who really didn’t give up on him. These are the people who helped him.”

Photos submitted and by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist,