Matthew Shepherd, born two months premature on Oct. 28, 1986, lived only six short months before dying of pulmonary intersitial emphysema, a disease that afflicted his underdeveloped lungs soon after his birth at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.
Dr. Van Lindsay, a Provo pediatrician who helped with the medical center in newborn and pediatric care until his death in 1983, lived 44 years also a short life by most standards.Memories of the Shepherd infant and of Lindsay led family members, friends and colleagues to establish memorial funds that have led to purchase of an $18,000 high-frequency oscillatory ventilator for the Kresge Intensive Care Nursery and Respiratory Department at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.
Members of the Shepherd and Lindsay families joined with medical center officials to acknowledge the high-technology gift with a luncheon recently at the medical center. The $18,000 to purchase the ventilator was contributed through the Dr. Van Lindsay Memorial Fund and the Matthew Shepherd Memorial Respirator Fund.
The hand-produced machine is one of only six in the world.
It delivers approximately 900 small breaths a minute to newborns, at the same time preventing pressure-type injuries to the weak, sensitive lungs of premature infants.
The ventilator, manufactured by SensorMedic of Anaheim, Calif., is expected to be in use by July 1, with medical center personnel now being trained.
After spending his first seven days at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, the Shepherd infant was rushed on a life-or-death flight to San Antonio, Texas, where he could be put on the nearest available high-frequency oscillatory ventilator.
Although improving during his eight-week stay there, his lungs probably had suffered considerable damage from the disease and the intense pressure of the earlier, less-sensitive ventilator. After returning to Provo, he died six months after his birth.
Ken and Shannon Shepherd of Provo had spent two weeks with their son during his eight-week stay in Texas, where they saw the ventilator in action. In addition to the obvious medical advantages, they also saw how having such a piece of equipment in Provo could have precluded the extensive travel for their critically ill son and the prolonged long-distance separation of the young family.
They established the memorial fund on behalf of their son, with efforts combined with the memorial fund that honors Lindsay. The funds were administered through the Central Utah Health Care Foundation, with officials hoping to arrange for two more ventilators in coming years leaving two ventilators for use and a third set for emergencies and back-up needs.
Mark J. Howard, Utah Valley Regional Medical Center chief executive officer, was one of several speakers, who during the often-emotional presentation acknowledged the efforts and actual donation. "Matthew is not with us, but there will be many more Matthews who will be with us down the road."
Dr. Ronald A. Stoddard of the medical center's perinatal center said that while the ventilator will not be a cure-all for all cases involving premature babies' lung growth or early infant lung problems it will be a tremendous step forward.
Dr. Thales H. Smith, chairman of the health care foundation's board of directors, credited the Kresge Newborn Intensive Care Nursery and "the esteem with which it is held throughout the world" for Utah Valley Regional Medical Center's honor for receiving such a ventilator and for also participating in the accompanying national studies concerning the machine's benefits.
Ken Shepherd said he and his wife represent "the loneliness and anxieties and emotional stress" of families with a critically ill infant. "This ventilator represents the great hope that many critically ill children who have chronic lung diseases at early stages of life can now be provided the life-support system they need to hopefully live a long, normal and healthy life," he said.
And the ventilator also represents an extension of the experiences and efforts of Matthew Shepherd and Dr. Van Lindsay.