Vacterl and Vater

VACTERL is a mnemonic in which the letters each stand for one or more type of malformation:

V = Vertebral anomalies

A = Anal atresia (no hole at the bottom end of the intestine)

C = Cardiac defect, most often ventricular septal defect

TE = TracheoEsophageal fistula (communication between the esophagus and trachea) with esophageal atresia

R = Renal (kidney) abnormalities

L = Limb abnormalities, most often radial dysplasia (abnormal formation
of the thumb or the radius bone in the

Birth defects are structural or functional abnormalities present at birth that cause physical or mental disability.

When this journey first started, I had no idea what VACTERL association was or how to handle the changes that came with it, because VACTERL association isn’t something people openly discuss. It was a challenge to hunt down reliable information meant for parents of VACTERL babies. Every VACTERL child is different, and yet the journey VACTERL families experience is so similar.

Our Child may face challenges as he grows up, and I will, in turn, be challenged as a parent, but this very challenging time in our lives as a family has also been the most rewarding. I hope that by sharing my story, I can bring awareness about this diagnosis to other families.

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Jason Irwin was born with a litany of birth defects.

A Blister of Stars is Irwin’s interrogation of his own biography. His poems reveal the terror felt by a child confused about what is happening to his body; the endless surgeries and difficult recoveries, the strain it all puts on his parents both emotionally and financially. Irwin’s luminous, reflective poems strive for solace in the face of horror, hold fast to faith while staring into the void.

Jason Irwin is the author of Watering the Dead (Pavement Saw Press, 2008), winner of the Transcontinental Poetry Award, and the chapbooks Where You Are (Night Ballet Press, 2014), & Some Days It’s A Love Story (Slipstream Press, 2005).

He has also had work published in Poetry East, Sycamore Review, Confrontation, and Poetry Ireland Review, among others. He grew up in Dunkirk, NY, and now lives in Pittsburgh.