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Billings family returns home after three months of struggling with son's illness

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Posted at 11:01 AM, Jan 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 13:01:40-05

After three months of traveling between hospitals and finding treatment and therapy for their son, Brittany and Rob Digiallonardo returned home to Billings Monday afternoon.

The road leading up to multiple treatments and surgeries for their three-year-old son, Thomas, started last January.

"January of last year, he had a stroke following a tonsillectomy and tubes put in his ears. We knew he had this underlying condition of Moyamoya. That time off of asprin and all of that stressed his system to the point where he had the stroke," said Brittany.

Both Brittany and Rob took Thomas to the University of Utah, where he received intense therapy and progressed in regaining his function. In March they returned to the university for revascularization surgery to the affected area of the brain.

"Following that surgery, we noticed a regression," said Brittany.

Brittany Digiallonardo speaking during interview

They went on to reach out to a Moyamoya disease doctor at Lucile Pakard in Stanford, California, who would conduct a second revascularization procedure. This time, successfully.

"That went really well. Especially after we had the scans done this time around showing a really good take of the procedure. They thought that Thomas would be a good candidate to go for inpatient therapy," said Brittany.

In order to receive inpatient therapy for Thomas, the Digiallonardo family had to check into a new hospital. Lucile Packard Children's hospital did not have the inpatient therapy program Thomas needed.

The Digiallonardo family went to Children's Hospital Colorado and were faced with more challenges.

"While we were there, Thomas had another issue with his brain where he had fluid in his ventricles. So he had to have a shunt put in. But, then six weeks later, he had a stroke because that side had occluded so much," said Digiallonardo.

This incident caused them to contact the hospital in Stanford again.

"In a situation like that, you have to be mindful of the fact that the brain has undergone so much trauma. And to do something to it on top of that could be very harmful," said Brittany.

But, even though Rob and Brittany were unsure if they should proceed with further treatments, doctors at Stanford decided that with the progression of Thomas's condition, that it would be better to treat him sooner than normal.

"The stroke that he had most recently affected his speech and ability to eat and some of his right side. To originally be going to therapy for three weeks to regain some of his function and then have to be in a position where we are worse off than when we left, is really frustrating and hard. But, we were really grateful that we were in a hospital when all this happened," said Brittany.

After three months of traveling between hospitals, the Digiallonardo family was able to return home.

The Digiallonardo family departing flight back home to Billings

"I am very thankful to AeroAngel, a company based out of Denver, Colorado. We couldn't have made it home without them. Trying to fly commercially with him would have been very difficult. He was able to lay down the whole flight and take a nap and rest," said Rob Digiallonardo.

Rob said that while they were in the hospital for an extended stay, their social worker at the hospital introduced them to the nonprofit organization. The Digiallonardos applied and were able to be approved to be picked up and flown back home to Billings.

Rob Digiallonardo speaking during interview

Rob and Brittany said that Thomas has a long road ahead of him, including therapy to relearn his basic functions. However, they are pleased with Thomas's progression and are happy to have had the support from families, friends and strangers, and the help from organizations like AeroAngel on their side.

For more information about AeroAngel and how to donate to their efforts, visit Aeroangel.org