At six days old, Gayle and Joseph’s seemingly-healthy baby, Dana, suddenly stopped nursing properly and began sleeping and waking in a strange pattern. The next day, her colour was off so Gayle got in touch with a nurse through Health Link. The nurse asked if Gayle could see Dana’s ribs when she took a breath and Gayle said yes. The nurse told Gayle to call 911 – seeing ribs meant baby Dana was struggling to breathe. An ambulance rushed Dana to the Alberta Children’s Hospital, where a room in the emergency department and a team of specialists were waiting for her arrival.
At the hospital, Dana suddenly went into cardiac arrest. The emergency team was able to get her stabilized enough to intubate her and runs some tests, including an echocardiogram, which identified a heart defect – Dana had an underdeveloped aorta, which was impacting blood flow in her body. She needed surgery, quickly. She was moved to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), and it was there that she went into cardiac arrest for a second time.
Clinical Nurse Educator Wendy Bissett was on shift in the PICU that day and began CPR on this tiny, week-old baby. Thanks to 2016 Radiothon donors, Wendy and her team were equipped with a new defibrillator that has a CPR feedback system to tell them exactly how hard and fast to push during compressions based on a patient’s size. Baby Dana’s life was saved a second time. She was then put on a specialized heart and lung bypass machine called extracorporeal life support (ECLS), to give her organs a chance to rest in advance of surgery. Amazingly, ECLS was also supported by Radiothon donors in 2012. Dana was flown to Edmonton, where she underwent the operation, and then returned to the Alberta Children’s Hospital to be carefully weaned from a ventilator to high-flow oxygen and then, eventually, she became strong enough to breathe on her own.
Dana is now back at home and doing well – growing and developing at a normal rate. Her family is very grateful for the team of experts at the hospital and also for the community support that funded the equipment that saved her daughter’s life. “It reduced the toll on her body and it helped keep her alive until she could get the surgery she needed,” says Gayle.
To hear more stories like this or to donate to the 2017 Caring for Kids Radiothon in support of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation visit www.KidsRadiothon.com