Joseph Delli Santi was born February 17, 2007 over three and a half months premature at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, NJ. At birth Joey weighed 12 oz. and was 9 ½ inches in length; one of the smallest babies ever born in New Jersey. Joey spent the first four and a half months of his life in the NICU of which the first month was the most critical as he struggled to maintain safe oxygen levels in his blood. Because of this instability, Joey was on a ventilator for the first two months as we waited for him to gain enough weight to safely proceed with his first of many surgeries. That surgery repaired a hole in his heart and within a week after surgery he was strong enough to breathe on his own for the first time. His time in the NICU had many challenges but we brought him home in June of 2007.
As expected we were very excited to bring Joey home, but that in itself had its challenges. Because of a high risk of re-hospitalization and the need for oxygen, Joey was on home confinement with frequent nursing care for the first year of his life. It wasn’t until after his first birthday that Joey became strong enough for us to be able to attend to any of his therapeutic or developmental needs.
2008 was a tough year for Joey. He was fitted with a cranial orthotic to reshape his head and was diagnosed with torticollis on the left side of his body. It was then that we started physical therapy twice a week with hopes to stretch his muscles enough to allow him to move freely. After a year of therapy with no success we decided to treat Joey’s torticollis with a Botox injection in his neck which allowed the muscles to become more flexible. This coupled with a few weeks of intensive therapy was the start of a period of remarkable growth for Joey as he started walking and running on his own.
Throughout 2009 we continued to focus on Joey’s physical therapy, but knew attention needed to be paid to his speech and feeding development. Joey continues to struggle with eating in that he is not able to chew foods, and this has also delayed his ability to speak clearly and form proper sounds. The continuing need for physical, occupational, speech and feeding therapy at times have been much more than we have been able to provide.
Joey is a smart, charismatic, loving three year old who has endless amounts of energy and equal amounts of bravado. He will think nothing of walking right up to the person next to him to say hi and give them a hug. Throughout all that has happened he never has let his disabilities stand in the way of him having fun.