Born with a duplicate kidney and blocked ureter, not even daily medications could keep Emma well. But thanks to a first-of-its-kind surgery at Levine Children’s Hospital, she’s now looking forward to a brighter future – starting with kindergarten.

Child Health | 4 months ago

Emma is Ready for Kindergarten, Thanks to Robotic Surgery

Born with a duplicate kidney and blocked ureter, not even daily medications could keep Emma well. But thanks to a first-of-its-kind surgery at Levine Children’s Hospital, she’s now looking forward to a brighter future – starting with kindergarten.

By the time Emma Ingham was 3 years old, she’d already had 17 kidney infections and undergone two major surgeries.

Emma was born with a duplicate kidney and a blocked ureter – a combination that meant her bladder couldn’t function properly and made her susceptible for infections.

On the day she was born, she was started on antibiotics, but even daily medications weren’t enough to keep her well. As she grew from an infant into a toddler, Emma just continued getting sick, and the Ingham family knew they needed a solution, and fast.

Feeling like a kid again

Thanks to a referral from their pediatrician, the Inghams found Emma’s urologist, Mark Williams, MD, at Levine Children’s. After so much hardship, things finally started falling into place – down to Dr. Williams’ office, which was a short five-minute drive from the Inghams’ home.

Dr. Williams knew that Emma’s problems could be corrected – she just needed the right procedure. In March of 2016, Emma underwent a robotic surgery to remove her entire ureter – and her procedure was not only life-changing, it was also a first-of-its-kind at Levine Children’s Hospital. “Emma’s case was unique in that it was the first time at Levine Children’s Hospital that, at least in terms of pediatric urology, robotic surgery was utilized,” says Dr. Williams.

As Emma started recovering from her procedure, her parents saw their little girl coming back. She may have only eaten Cheez-Its for two weeks, but at least she was eating. And for the first time in a long time, Emma was feeling like a kid again – which, for the Ingham family, was all that mattered.  

Big plans for the future

This journey has been a rollercoaster ride for Emma and her family – from thinking she might need dialysis to thinking she might lose a kidney to even fearing she might not make it. Now, Emma is not only healthy, but she’s been antibiotic-free for almost two years now, which at one point seemed impossible.  

These days, Emma loves playing with her older sister and brother, who are close to her in age and have been amazing support through it all. Her parents say she’s growing like a weed and her future is bright. But for now, 5-year-old Emma is just focused on her next big life event: starting kindergarten.


At Atrium Health, all the best care for kids has one trusted name. Learn more about Levine Children’s.