Seventy miles. The length of 1,232 football fields. The distance of nearly three marathons. The miles between Sandi and Robert’s newborn twins, who faced life-threatening complications at birth.
Up until her last trimester, Sandi’s pregnancy had been largely uneventful. She knew there could be risks involved with having twins, but nothing could prepare her for what was coming.
About a month and a half before her due date, Sandi was admitted to the family’s local Colorado Springs hospital for extremely high blood pressure. In order to save both Sandi and the babies, doctors needed to perform a cesarean section immediately. After the babies were born, Sandi began to experience HELLP syndrome – a life-threatening post-partum complication in which the liver and kidneys shut down. Sandi was admitted into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Meanwhile, newborns Emily and Michael were also in critical condition.
“My husband’s worst fears came true that first evening as he was bouncing back and forth between the babies in the NICU and me in the ICU,” said Sandi.
Emily was having difficulty breathing and was placed on a breathing machine. Then, doctor’s discovered something was wrong with Michael’s heart.
“I thought I might lose my entire family,” said Robert of that precarious night.
CARDIAC ARREST AT 5 DAYS OLD
After a grueling 24 hours, Sandi and Emily were improving. However, Michael’s condition continued to deteriorate.
Doctors explained that Michael’s heart was not effectively pumping blood to the rest of his body and that he needed surgery right away. Michael was airlifted to Children’s Hospital Colorado so he could access the pediatric specialty care he required.
Robert and Sandi traveled closely behind in their car, while the babies’ grandparents stayed in Colorado Springs with Emily.
Upon arriving at Children’s Colorado, Dr. Kak-Chen Chan performed an aortic valve plasty, a procedure that widens a narrowed heart valve, on Michael in order to increase blood flow to the rest of his body. The surgery went well, and Michael was stable, so Robert and Sandi headed back to Colorado Springs to check on their newborn daughter.
Just as they were getting back to Colorado Springs at 11 p.m., they received a phone call from Children’s Colorado. Michael’s heart cavity was filling up with fluid. At just 5 days old, he went into cardiac arrest.
One of the on-call fellows at Children’s Colorado took immediate action and performed an emergency procedure to save Michael’s life. Meanwhile, a nurse stayed on the phone with Sandi and Robert, updating them on Michael’s condition throughout their drive back to Denver.
Just as they arrived at Children’s Colorado, the parents learned that Michael had survived the surgery. Their newborn son was going to be OK.
A FAMILY OF FOUR
Now came the challenge of managing two newborns at two different hospitals more than 70 miles apart. The new parents spent the next several weeks travelling between the NICUs in Denver and Colorado Springs until Michael was stable enough to be transferred. After a traumatic first month, the family of four was finally reunited in Colorado Springs.
The next few years of Michael’s life were filled with doctor appointments and follow-ups. At age 2, he underwent a successful open-heart surgery at Children’s Colorado to repair his heart defect once and for all. Today he’s a healthy 11-yearold with no restrictions, although he still does annual checkups at a Children’s Colorado outpatient clinic in Colorado Springs.
“Having a children’s hospital in Colorado Springs when our twins were born would have been much less stressful on our entire family,” said Robert. “In the future, having this critical children’s care facility in our community will help many families with stories like ours.”