Tarkenton Cunningham

First post: Aug 5, 2020 Latest post: Sep 14, 2021
Hey Everyone!! This is ALL about Tarkenton and his journey!


At 11wks gestation we found out our unborn son had an enlarged bladder. Long story short we ended back in our home state of Minnesota. At 15wks we were told it was called LUTO ( Lower Urinary Tract Obstruction. Which means he was NOT having urine output causing his bladder to enlarge and urine to back up to his kidneys.  


We met with a World Renowned Fetal specialist who has done some amazing work. We went through 2 bladder taps which consisted of taking a needle to baby's bladder (in womb) and removing the urine. At 16wks we had our first shunt placement of 2 shunts. That surgery was similar to the bladder taps except they left a plastic tube from his bladder to the outside of his tummy so urine could drain for him to have amniotic fluid around him. Our follow up we found out 1 shunt was partially working and the other was completely in his bladder, so under the needle again. Mind you all 4 pokes I was awake for and barely medicated.


We found out I had ruptured after the second shunt placement. From that moment on we were told there wasn't anything they could do if I went into labor. But at 23wks they could offer me the first round of steriods to help develop and mature his lungs a little faster. 


Before then we were told our chances of bringing our miracle baby into the world was very slim and that more than likely we would have a miscarriage. 23wks came and I was admitted to the hospital for my long stay until baby came. After the first week doctors were comfortable to send me home except COVID-19 hit and they were hesitant to send me home being ruptured and placed on bedrest. So I stayed, the hospital went on lock down and no visitors in or out. 


Doctors and all sorts of team members came in or called to speak about our situation and that baby had little to no chance of life before 28wks. Due to the fact LUTO causes a list of issues such as kidney issues, lung problems, and even development all due to lack of fluid around the baby.  But we set a date of May 22nd (34wks) to deliver since they felt that was best for delivery and life saving options.


28wks came and gone. 30wks came and gone. I celebrated every passing day that I remained pregnant and every week passed. Each week ment more development and more chances I'd get to be a mom (finally). But always having that knowledge of his chances at life was not very high and being told the chances of him being born not breathing was big.  Reminding myself that every week that passed ment he was a little bigger and then he could have more life saving options. 


33wks came and another round of steriods. Doctors decided that we should push to 36wks since I was doing so well. 35wks came and I woke up swollen and my blood pressure through the roof. They sent me right over to Labor and Delivery because that ment we had to deliver the baby. 


So we started to induce labor and I started off progressing fast in 2hrs. But 10hrs in and baby wasn't doing well with contractions. So I made the decision to do a c-section.


Baby Tarkenton (TJ) was born on May 30th (35wks and 1 day) at 9:50am. When he was born the first 2 sentences from the doctors " Happy Birthday little Guy." And "He's breathing, just not well". Instant tears from both the husband and myself our son was actually taking some air into his lungs. 


He was born with some of his intestines and left testicle on the outside of his body from where one of the shunts was and had apparently moved. So he went into surgery and transported to the level 3 NICU up the street. I will spare the details up until the next  day other than I was being transported to the same hospital to be with him. 


He was on a breathing machine called an oscillator that is so strong it shook him. We were told his chances at life were very small. But that they would try whatever they could that we wanted. Day in and day out we went to his room and sat there watching our premature newborn being shook and wondering if he'd ever leave the hospital. My husband and I would sit around his bed and hold his hand and just cry not knowing what life would be like for us since he had so much supporting him. I mean his lungs were underdeveloped, he had 1 small kidney and 1 cystic kidney, his lab work was coming back with super high numbers. 


Meeting after meeting being told the same thing created more of a reality of we were not going to bring our son home. 


The doctors spoke to us about his kidney levels being so high that we were looking at doing a dangerous dialysis because the less dangerous dialysis he didn't qualify for due to his surgery. Until a few days later his lab work was coming back with lower numbers.


June 9th the doctors decided to try and switch from the strong ventilator to a conventional one to see how he'd do but excepting little to nothing of a chance. We came in the room to machines going off and his doctor telling us he's breathing so well that the machine is actually trying to fight him to breath for him. 


June 10th the doctors decided to try and take the breathing tube out completely and see how he did on just a nasal cannula on room air.  Which turned out he needed very little of but remained on him. 



June 25th the NICU felt he was doing so well they kicked him out and onto the Peds floor.  With a wiff of oxygen.


July 8th We finally went home!!

August 17th completely off oxygen! 

So this is what Tarkenton is currently battling or has been diagnosed with:


Chronic Kidney Disease which means he needs a Kidney!


Underdeveloped lungs- due to prematurity and lack of fluid. But has not had issues being home. Doctors have deemed him 100% healthy breathing just room air. So no more oxygen!!


A underdeveloped right ear- He can hear slightly out of the right ear but will not affect his ability to hear long term. We will be able to go in and finish opening his ear canal so he can 100% hear. We just call it his lucky fin. 


Club feet- Which was corrected with 3 casts and now braces. He currently wears them at bedtime.

Urinary blockage- The doctors want to wait until he's a little bigger to see if they can correct the blockage. So he has a vesicostomy to help with urine output. Vesicostomy is where they bring the bladder to the skin (under the belly button) and has a constant leak of urine. 


Feedings- He has a G-tube so that we can push double the amount of fluids a baby his age takes to help the kidney function and get him to transplant weight of 25lbs. 




All in All Tarkenton is continuing to show us he is a fighter. His kidney levels are stable and keeping us from doing any dialysis at the moment.

Stay posted for updates and Thank you for the patience to read this but also the support and prayers. 



So where does His name come from? Tarkenton comes from the one and only Fran Tarkenton who was the quarterback for the MN vikings (1961-1966, 1972-1978). Jeffery from a Best friend of Tad's who sadly passed away in 2016. 

Stay tuned for more of Our journey!!



💜💛The Cunninghams 💜💛

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