Cedar Rapids, IA

Myles Peterman enjoys creating music, playing video games, and being outdoors. But more than anything, he loves spending time with his younger brothers Frankie, Jeffrey, and Noah.

“Having four boys in the house is wild and crazy and loud,” Myles’s mom Jessie says. “It’s like having built-in best friends.”

But even before Myles was born, it was unclear if he would be able to fully experience any of these things.

Jessie had been having a normal pregnancy until her local obstetrician discovered a growth in Jessie’s abdomen during her third trimester. An ultrasound revealed that baby Myles had hydrocephalus—a buildup of fluid in the skull that puts pressure on the brain.

Jessie was referred to University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital for further testing. It was soon determined that Myles also had spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spinal column does not close all the way while in the womb.

“It was very devastating to find out that Myles was going to be sick,” Jessie recalls. “My first question was: ‘Is he going to be okay? Is he going to make it through this?’”

Pediatric neurosurgeon Arnold Menezes, MD, and his team determined the medical plan Myles would need after he was born—they would repair his spine and place a plastic shunt in his brain to drain the excess fluid into his abdomen.

“Every step of the way, the right person has always been there,” says Jessie. “The right staff has made the medical decisions needed to take care of whatever issues came up.”

Myles has had multiple surgeries to replace shunts, repair his spine, and remove his appendix. During Myles’s first shunt surgery, Menezes decided there would be fewer risks if they waited a few more days.

“He said ‘When I’m in there, I’m thinking as if I’m the parents, as if I’m you guys,’” Jessie remembers.

Myles comes back to UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital a few times a year to see child psychology and pediatric specialists in neurosurgery, urology, and orthopedics. He also wears leg braces and sees physical therapists to improve his walking.

The Petermans are thankful for the personalized care the doctors, nurses, and Child Life specialists have showed their family.

“From the moment we step in the door, everybody cares about the patients here,” Jessie says. “It’s that deep-down drive to make it a good experience and to get everybody better.”

“I think he likes it here more than he likes it at home with all the attention he gets,” jokes Myles’ dad, Frank.

Myles has persevered through procedures, surgeries, learning disabilities, and daily pain, but nothing has hindered the 13-year-old’s smile or spirit.

“In the beginning, we didn’t know how well Myles would do,” Jessie says. “We feel like it’s a miracle that he’s doing so well. We feel very lucky.”

Related Medical Services