Ehrlichs' Son Recovering From Surgery

By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 4, 2004; Page B02

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s 8-week-old son underwent emergency surgery late Sunday to resolve a fairly common yet frightening digestive disorder that causes a blockage between the stomach and small intestine.

Joshua Taylor Ehrlich, born March 6, was reported in good condition last night, and doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center said he is expected to make a complete recovery.

First lady Kendel Ehrlich brought Joshua to Nighttime Pediatrics in Annapolis on Sunday evening after he had been vomiting for a week, and her repeated attempts to change his feeding schedule were not helping.

A pediatrician at the Annapolis office diagnosed Joshua's digestive condition as pyloric stenosis, an illness characterized by forceful and persistent vomiting. It is caused by a hardening of the muscle that helps push food from the stomach into the small intestine.

The governor's son was sent to Anne Arundel Medical Center for tests then transferred to the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore for emergency surgery Sunday night. Roger Voigt, the medical center's chief of pediatric surgery, performed the procedure, which involves making a small slice through the muscle to relieve the tension that is causing the blockage.

"The surgery lasted for about one hour," Voigt said in a statement released by the governor's office. "It went very well, and we expect Joshua to make a full recovery."

Gov. Ehrlich (R) canceled his public schedule yesterday, and he and the first lady spent the day at the hospital. "Thank you to everyone for keeping the Ehrlich family in your thoughts and prayers," the governor said in a statement released by his office. "We look forward to a speedy recovery and returning home with Joshua."

Annapolis pediatrician Robert G. Graw Jr. said the condition can be frightening to parents because of the forcefulness of the vomiting. But it is actually quite common, he said, occurring in about 1 in 1,000 babies 3 to 8 weeks old.

"It's the kind of problem where, once your child has it, you realize many of the people you know went through the same thing," Graw said.

Graw said the "very minor anatomical problem" becomes serious only if it goes untreated and leads to dehydration. Voigt said Joshua was already eating formula yesterday and should leave the hospital by this afternoon.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company