TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Brooklyn Morrison seems like any other three-year old when she laughs and plays.
"She's energetic, an extremely happy kid overall," says her dad, Heath Morrison.
But Brooklyn has had a fight unlike most others.
"We went in for an ultrasound and they found what they thought might be a mass on her stomach," recalls her mom, Nicole Murray.
Further tests showed Brooklyn had gastroschisis, a condition where part of her intestine came through a hole in her abdomen, outside her body. The Centers for Disease Control estimates only about 1800 babies a year are born with gastroschisis, and the cause isn't clear.
"We were definitely scared," Nicole said.
"A baby's a stressful new thing in your life as it is, and then you get a lot of extra things and a lot of extra worry that came with it," he said.
Doctors at Stormont Vail who diagnosed the condition referred the family to Children's Mercy, where Nicole and Heath planned to deliver among pediatric surgeons ready to spring into action to help their little girl. But Brooklyn decided to arrive a month early, throwing everyone for a loop.
"They had to wrap her intestines immediately, so that there was no outside damage, and then they waited for (the Children's Mercy) transport team to come," Nicole said. 'We were able to see her, say goodbye and then she was off to Children's."
Once there, doctors did an almost immediate exploratory surgery, where they learned Brooklyn's small intestines had pinched and lost blood supply. Surgeons had to remove 80 percent of it, leaving her with what's called short gut.
The added diagnosis started a year-long stay at Children's. Brooklyn underwent six abdominal surgeries before her first birthday, while mom and dad got an education they never expected.
"We were trained on a fast course of how to be her nurse," Nicole said.
The duties included how to care for Brooklyn's G-tube and central line, how to prepare her daily IV nutrition, how to clean her dressings, and what to do if they spotted any signs of trouble, like potential infection.
But even with those challenges, Stormont Vail Maternal and Fetal Medicine Dr. Laura Hughes says knowing about Brooklyn's gastroschisis before she was born gave them a vital head start
"If the bowel were exposed without any protection, it starts to lose fluid and the baby can become very dehydrated, very quickly, which can become life threatening," Dr. Hughes said.
She says it illustrates the importance of prenatal care for all moms to be.
"Many of those conditions (we might find) improve with the care throughout the pregnancy as well as interventions after delivery," she said.
Brooklyn's life is still filled with hospital visits. They're now working with a program at Nebraska Medical Center to get the intestines she has left to kick in and work, since they went quite some time before ever receiving nutrition. An intestinal transplant would be a last resort for her, if her own do not respond.
They're also working for Brooklyn herself to adapt to eating real food.
"Most children just learn it and they're not necessarily cognizant of what they're doing, but she's cognizant. She has heightened senses to everything that she's doing, along with a threen-ager attitude!" Nicole said.
If it all comes together, doctors tell them, Brooklyn can lose the tubes, and do all those things other kids do.
"We can't even take her swimming. We can't sit down and share our food with her, so those little things we all take for granted, we'd like those things to be just like any normal family some day," Heath said.
"She's the reason we grind every day," Nicole added. "She has the fight of... I've never seen it before. She has the spirit and drive for such a tiny person."