Open Heart Surgery at 12 Hours Old. Emma's Story

Published on 
January 29, 2013

Baby EmmaWhen I gave birth to our second daughter, Emma, I knew something wasn’t right. Emma had Apgar scores of 0,0,7. She was stillborn, unable to breathe on her own and her heart was not doing well. They had to perform CPR and put a breathing tube in her. The team managed to stabilize her but her oxygen levels were very low without support. Emma was taken into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to figure out what was wrong with her and that took several hours. Eventually they managed to find an abnormality on an echocardiogram that hinted at a heart problem.

To get Emma the best possible care, she was transferred from Irvine to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, a hospital that specializes in the heart through The Heart Institute. They were going to take her by ambulance to Los Angeles, to the asses and work on her there. We were able to go see her in the NICU while they were getting her ready to leave Irvine. I remember saying lots of prayers and my husband did a quick blessing. I couldn't even hear it but I knew she would be taken care of. I remember seeing them wheel her away. My husband rushed to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles while I waited to be discharged. It was so hard for me to just wait at the hospital and not be with her. The ob-gyn came-in to talk to me on how I was doing and to inform me that I had to wait till 7:00 p.m. to be discharged. It broke my heart because I wanted to be with my baby so bad.

Baby EmmaWhile at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, they managed to diagnose the specific problem Emma had, which is Total anomalous pulmonary venous return. In simpler terms, the veins that bring oxygenated blood back from the lungs into the heart were not attached in the correct spot. Because of this, Emma had a tough time getting blood and oxygen to the rest of her body. They had to perform open heart surgery to fix the problem. Once that was all figured out, Emma was rushed into surgery around 6:00 p.m.

I was able to talk to the ob-gyn in Irvine and they let me get discharged early so I could go to the hospital to be with her. I was so grateful for being discharged 12 hours after giving birth. The three hour open heart surgery went well, with no unexpected complications. Emma was somewhat stable, and put on ECMO, a life support system that helps her heart pump and helps her breathe. She was sedated, but showed some improvement in her acidity level. She was on that amazing ECMO machine for five days, and then she was on a breathing tube for 20 days. Then we were able to hold our little girl for the first time. During that time she started to have some arrhythmia. So she was put on medicine to help with that. She was at the hospital for 44 days, and then we were able to take her home to meet her older sister.

Make a DonationEmma is now seven months old and goes to many doctors’ appointments to see her cardiologist, occupational therapist and general practitioner. Emma is taking medicine to help her with her arrhythmia. Just looking at her, you can’t tell that she’s been through so much, but once you change her clothes, you can see all of her scars from open heart surgery and her chest tubes. She is our little miracle baby that has such a fun, cute personality. We now attend a lot of heart walks to celebrate Emma's life.