The Archive

Cloaca Children No Longer Die

...the Miracles of Dr. Hardy Hendren at Children's Hospital

Leonard B. Dalton

Only twenty years ago the birth of a child with the cloaca syndrome meant death to that infant in only a matter of days. The basic problem was that instead of having three openings on their bottoms--anus, vagina and urethra, cloaca babies only have one, the urogenital sinus or cloaca.

In his book, "The Work of Human Hands," author G. Wayne Miller offers all of us a close-in view of the wonders of surgery at Children's Hospital. This fine work will bring tears of genuine awe to your eyes; a wonderful degree of reconciliation in your own life just to realize there is in Doctor Hardy Hendren real stewardship of innocence in this world. He works on the edge of his science to the profit of his world and yours. There arrives a degree of psychological comfort to the reader merely to realize that this man exists.

Cloaca children are females borne with no external evidence of their sex other than a simple urethra. No anus or any other representation of normality to be seen. Physicians were at a loss on how to rescue these children in a lasting or meaningful way so that their lives might continue and do so happily and constructively.

Since rescuing my own son from an early demise in 1956, the pediatric surgeon, Doctor Hardy Hendren has gone on from Massachusetts General Hospital to Chief of Surgery at Boston's Childrens Hospital. It is this wonderful man who refused to be defeated by the cloaca syndrome and allow these children to be taken early in life. While the child is only days old, Dr. Hendren makes a cholostomy for the bowel to work and then the child can grow and prosper until the day of correction arrives.

In one marathon session, Dr. Hendren makes the incision to the lower abdomen of the child and takes several hours to determine the inventory of parts available and useable. Most cloaca children have anywhere from two to four vaginas so Dr. Hendren takes two of these to create a single viable organ and secures it in the proper place. Ovaries are found and secured. Then, Dr. Hendren finds suitable tissues and creates fallopian tubes, secures that tissue to the ovaries and the womb and makes an otherwise complete reproductive system that will one day fulfill its mission.

Dr. Hendren then finds the anal sphincter using a mild electric shock device. Outlining the sphincter, he then creates an anal opening and secures the descending colon from the old cholostomy to the new anus. It is a fight but the surgeon has top notch help with a tried and true crew; people who have worked with him for years. To the tune of Strauss Waltz music over the public address system, Lucy now has a newly made rectum, vagina, urethra and clitoris all where they are supposed to be as well as a future!

During this long session in the operating room, the patient must be turned over at least once and this maneuver takes many people to coordinate all the tubes and connections. After perhaps 24 or more hours of steady operating and creating, the incision is closed and the project of recovery starts.

Dr. Hendren has now taught surgeons in the far east, the middle east and in Europe his techniques for dealing with cloaca children and as a result, they no longer die as was the case a mere twenty years ago.

In the book written about Dr. Hendren one child is exemplified; a beautiful little girl, Lucy Moore. She received a cholostomy at birth and was allowed three years to grow strong. Also in that time other gifted surgeons repaired a heart problem and a spine problem in Lucy.

She could have won a beauty contest. Then Dr. Hendren did his mighty marathon and assured this little sweetheart a full, happy life with her own children if she so chose.

In the concept of giving of ourselves to society and to life, few of us ever gain the level of creative giving to humanity achieved by Dr. Hendren. His own life was threatened a few years ago by cancer of the bowel. When I asked him about it he replied, "No problem. We found the cancer and cut it out. No problem." Dr. Hendren is revered by all who know him. He is remembered by all he has saved as well as by their families and yet, he lost his only daughter to diabetes at age of 37.

They pay, one and all, with a reverence for this benefactor of children. Here, I wish long life to him and most sincerely thank God for creating him.


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