When Your Baby Is in the ICU

This is a story about the time we took Lauren to the pediatrician and didn’t come home for five days. It is also a cautionary tale about why you should always shower before you take your kid to the doctor, no matter how early the appointment.

Lauren’s two month well baby visit was scheduled for a Monday morning in March. The pediatrician’s office is about five minutes from our house, so I thought we’d be gone for an hour, max. “I’ll just shower after the appointment,” I said to myself. Oops.

Everything was going according to plan, until the doctor listened to Lauren’s heart. She tried to check her heart rate, but Lauren’s heart was beating too quickly to count. She called in a nurse with a pulse oximeter. She called in another doctor for a second opinion. I remember his expression when he paused for a second and then said, “that’s like… SVT fast.”

The pediatrician called ahead to Mission Hospital, and we headed to the emergency room, but Lauren’s heart rate had returned to normal by the time we arrived. We were given a room in the ER, and nurses popped in and out checking Lauren’s vitals. By late afternoon, all of the sensors had fallen off Lauren’s little body. When one of the nurses replaced the sensors, he discovered that Lauren’s heart rate was elevated to 220 bpm. The ER doctor was called, and he tried unsuccessfully to correct Lauren’s heart rhythm by holding bags of ice to her cheeks. The next option was to administer adenosine, but the nurses were unable to place an IV line close enough to her heart. The doctor decided to perform a cardioversion (i.e., shock Lauren’s heart) without sedation. That did the trick, at the cost of an extremely upset baby.

Around 9:00 pm, Lauren was transferred to CHOC. I rode in the ambulance (first timer!) with Lauren, while Brian returned home to pack an overnight bag. Once at CHOC, Lauren was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) and Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome. Her echocardiogram was normal and did not indicate any damage to her heart. Since Lauren’s SVT and WPW are likely caused by an extra electrical connection in her heart, she may outgrow the conditions by the time she turns one. In the meantime, her heart rate can be managed with medication.

Lauren spent five days in the cardiovascular intensive care unit, which is like the penthouse suite. It has ruined me for all future hospital visits. The patient to nurse ratio is 2:1, and Lauren was in a large single room with a sunset view. There was a Ronald McDonald room on the same floor where Brian was able to take conference calls. While Brian was going stir crazy, I didn’t set foot outside the hospital until Lauren was discharged that Friday. Actually, I barely left the room since I received free room service as a lactating mother.

While at CHOC, we were able to meet with a cardiologist, a gastroenterologist, a thoracic surgeon, a geneticist, a feeding therapist and a lactation consultant. We’re incredibly grateful for the care that Lauren received at CHOC, and that her pediatrician was able to detect her condition so early.

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1 Comment

  1. I kid you not…I just said to myself, “holy crap, holy sh!t”. Poor baby girl! Thank goodness Lauren’s parents are totally awesome!

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