Erin had been breastfeeding her new baby, Oliver, but had to switch him to formula when she was hospitalized following a surgery. It was then that she and her husband started noticing a decline in his health and he began losing weight. However, an ultrasound did not find any gastrointestinal issues, so the Smiths were sent to the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Oliver underwent a bunch of tests including an echocardiogram and when the results came back, his parents were shocked to learn he had holes in his heart – the result of a congenital defect. Specialists hoped to avoid surgery for Oliver with the insertion of an NG tube, force feeds and diuretics. The holes would stay the same size, so if Oliver could grow bigger and stronger, they would pose less risk.
After a month, though, he wasn’t gaining weight so his cardiologist Dr. Kim Meyers referred him for a surgery in Edmonton where a band was put around his pulmonary artery to reduce blood flow. Oliver was soon able to return to the Alberta Children’s Hospital where his team ran frequent tests to ensure the band was working and monitored his weight very closely to make sure he was growing. After a few weeks, Oliver was ready to be discharged. Erin was completely terrified at the thought of caring for him at home with no medical background, but the hospital’s Home Nutrition team stepped in and trained her on everything she needed to know until she was confident.
A follow-up MRI found three significant holes in Oliver’s heart, so Dr. Meyers referred him for a second surgery in Edmonton, in which the holes were patched or stitched up. This surgery came with a lot of complications, though, including Oliver going into renal failure and then the fluids he was given as treatment clogging a drainage tube and caused his lung to collapse. However, despite the setbacks, Oliver overcame everything and these days, is doing well.
Erin is so grateful to everyone at the Alberta Children’s Hospital for saving her son’s life. “He would have died without the hospital,” she says, adding she was truly amazed by the amount of manpower that went into caring for her one little baby, let alone all the other kids here. Erin is especially grateful for Dr. Meyers, who has always thought long-term for Oliver, making decisions to help him throughout his entire life, even beyond when he is her patient and responsibility. She’s also thankful for the family-centred care that ensured she was taken care of too, including the private rooms. “Sometimes you need a place to cry your eyes out.”