Saving Brennan

  • Parents Lauren and Bill discuss their son’s journey after being born with a mass on his right lung. Brennan was a patient of the St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children Regional Fetal Evaluation Center. The mass was successfully removed just before his second birthday.

  • Brennan Sheerin, 2, holds his parents hands at their Burholme home.

  • Brennan Sheerin, 2, with a mass on his right lung. Brennan was a patient of the St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children Regional Fetal Evaluation Center. The mass was successfully removed just before his second birthday. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS

Bren­nan Sheer­in is a happy, healthy little boy.

The 2-year-old Burholme res­id­ent might have been a child with chron­ic lung in­fec­tions and bleed­ing that doc­tors would have dif­fi­culty ex­plain­ing. His con­di­tion might have been a mys­tery.

Might have been.

In­stead, doc­tors spot­ted a prob­lem — a small mass on his right lung — very early in his life. In fact, that mass, which was re­moved in Septem­ber, was no­ticed be­fore Bren­nan was born.

His moth­er, Lauren, had her first ul­tra­sound test done when she was 26 weeks preg­nant with Bren­nan, her second child, and that’s when the tiny mass was spot­ted by her doc­tor.

Ima­gine be­ing a moth­er and hear­ing that.

“It was really grim at first,” she said dur­ing a Feb. 27 phone in­ter­view. 

It was con­fus­ing, too, she said. She said she was re­ferred to oth­er doc­tors and bom­barded with in­form­a­tion.

“I spent the whole preg­nancy wor­ried,” she said.

What she was look­ing for was hope, she said, and she found it when she was re­ferred to Dr. Shaheen Timmapuri, at­tend­ing sur­geon of the Re­gion­al Fetal Eval­u­ation Cen­ter at St. Chris­toph­er’s Hos­pit­al for Chil­dren.

“She was so amaz­ing,” Lauren Sheer­in said. “She really broke it down for us. … It was the first time I really had hope.”

Par­ents don’t want to see any­thing un­usu­al, the doc­tor said in a Feb. 28 phone in­ter­view. Any­thing ab­nor­mal cre­ates anxi­ety and fear.

They won­der about the qual­ity of a child’s life, if a child will sur­vive, she said.

“She was so re­as­sur­ing,” Lauren Sheer­in said of the doc­tor.

Timmapuri said she has been in­volved in Bren­nan’s care since he was still in his moth­er’s womb. She said she kept an eye on Bren­nan’s de­vel­op­ment. The mass re­mained small.

At St. Chris­toph­er’s, doc­tors al­ways made sure the baby was OK, Lauren Sheer­in said. That didn’t ease just her wor­ries.

“I went to the ma­jor­ity of the ap­point­ments with her,” her hus­band, Bill, said. “I can’t say I ever lost hope … I feel God led us down to St. Chris­toph­er’s. … It was a great ex­per­i­ence.”


The mass, Timmapuri said, didn’t seem to cause the de­vel­op­ing child any both­er. Even three months after Bren­nan was born at Temple Hos­pit­al, the mass re­mained small and was not caus­ing the baby any dis­tress, the doc­tor said.

“It was very tiny,” she said. “It was not even that ob­vi­ous it was there.”

It was safe, she thought, not to re­move it un­til the child had grown a bit. He was al­most 2 when Timmapuri re­moved the mass from Bren­nan’s lung, his moth­er said.

What would have happened had the mass not been spot­ted and doc­tors had not known it even ex­is­ted?

In the worst case, Timmapuri said, there was a po­ten­tial for re­cur­ring lung in­fec­tions and some bleed­ing. There was a very small risk of can­cer. And, it’s pos­sible that the cause of the prob­lems would been mys­ter­i­ous to doc­tors, es­pe­cially giv­en that the mass was so small.

That all of that nev­er happened is be­cause a preg­nant wo­man had an ul­tra­sound, mod­ern ul­tra­sounds are of ex­cel­lent qual­ity and ob­stet­ri­cians are good at read­ing the ul­tra­sounds, Timmapuri said.

The res­ult is 2-year-old Bren­nan is grow­ing up in his Prin­ceton Av­en­ue home with mom, dad and his broth­er, Caleb, 10. 

Timmapuri said St. Chris­toph­er’s Re­gion­al Fetal Eval­u­ation Cen­ter is about four years old. No chil­dren are born there, she said. Chil­dren are re­ferred after birth. ••

The Re­gion­al Fetal Eval­u­ation Cen­ter in St. Chris­toph­er’s Hos­pit­al is at 3601 A St. For in­form­a­tion, call 888-546-6402 or  215-427-5521.

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