Watch Omari’s story on NJTV
Tiny Patient Gets a Rare Heart Catheterization
Only 31 weeks into her pregnancy, Tanisha Anderson’s water broke,
resulting in an emergency C-section at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
(NBIMC), an RWJBarnabas Health facility, where she had been a staff nurse
and then the nurse manager in the Women’s Health Unit.
Her newborn son Omari, who weighed 3 pounds, 10.4 ounces, was immediately
put in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). In addition to needing
seven blood transfusions for ABO incompatibility—a condition that
results when a mother’s blood type differs from her baby and crosses
the placenta—Omari was also eventually diagnosed with a more serious
condition called Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA).
PDA occurs when a blood vessel in the baby, called the ductus arteriosus,
does not close after birth when the lungs fill with air. This situation
may not be well tolerated in a premature baby who already has problems
due to immaturity of the lungs themselves. Babies with PDA may have symptoms
of heart failure and need ventilator support.
As the first line of treatment, Omari was given ibuprofen and then indomethacin
to close the PDA, but neither medicine worked. Omari’s neonatologist
advised Tanisha that Omari would need an invasive cardiac surgery called
“I was against it and didn’t want him to go through that, so
I asked to speak to a pediatric cardiologist about other options”
she says. Dr. Rajiv Verma, MD, director of the Children’s Heart
Center at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey at NBIMC, told Tanisha
that Omari did have another option to do a catheter-based procedure because
of where the PDA was. However, Omari would have to be 7lbs 11 oz. to qualify
for the procedure.
At two months old and one ounce shy of being eligible for the catheterization,
Omari was discharged from the hospital with instructions to be fed as
much as possible to increase his weight.
“I breastfed him exclusively to help him gain weight, but it was
difficult because he couldn’t coordinate eating and breathing, so
I had to pace him,” says Tanisha.
Thirty-six hours later, Tanisha brought him back to the emergency room
because he was struggling to breathe. “I was monitoring his blood
oxygen levels, and though his numbers looked good, I could see he wasn’t
doing well. He was using everything he had,” she says.
Dr. Verma informed her that Omari couldn’t wait any longer and performed
Omari was put under general anesthesia, and Dr. Verma threaded a tiny tube
into a blood vessel in his groin. The catheter was then positioned in
the aorta close to the ductus arteriosus, and a picture (called an angiogram)
was taken to define its shape and size. Through the catheter, a tiny coil
was placed within the vessel to plug the PDA.
Two days later, Omari left the hospital again, but this time as a much
“He was a new kid in 24 hours - he could eat and finish his bottle
in 15 minutes as opposed to an hour,” says Tanisha.
Omari will need yearly visits to monitor his heart health, but is expected
to be fine. Now, he’s a healthy, active 13-month-old who weighs
“Having a child in the NICU for that long was an emotional rollercoaster,
and the staff was an amazing support system getting me through every step.
Even being a nurse and working there I didn’t know what to expect,”
She adds, “Dr. Verma and the NICU team respected my wishes when I
didn’t want Omari to have the heart surgery, gave me information
and options, and explained all of the risks.”
“Your baby needs open-heart surgery…”
As a nurse at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, I have heard those words before.
But, nothing prepared me for the day those words were spoken to me.
About 40,000 babies are born in the United States each year with some
type of heart defect. My newborn son Omari was one of them.
At only 31 weeks, Omari was delivered by emergency C-section at The Beth.
He weighed 3 pounds and 10.4 ounces and was immediately put in the Neonatal
Intensive Care Unit (NICU). It was soon discovered that he had a hole
in his tiny heart.
Omari’s heart was repaired using a minimally invasive catheter procedure
that was not always available for young patients. Even better, I didn’t
have to go to New York City or hop on a plane to have it done. My son’s
lifesaving procedure was performed right here at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.
Dr. Rajiv Verma, MD, director of the Children’s Heart Center at
the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel Medical
Center, was prepared to perform the procedure that repaired Omari’s
heart using a tiny coiled device inserted through a catheter. However,
my baby needed to weigh 7lbs 11 oz. first.
At two months old, Omari was discharged from the hospital with instructions
to be fed as much as possible to increase his weight. Thirty-six hours
later, I rushed him back to the emergency room because he was struggling
Omari couldn’t wait any longer and Dr. Verma performed his lifesaving
procedure. Three days later I left the hospital again with a healthy child.
Today, my baby boy is an active 17-month-old who weighs 25 pounds!
Having a child in the NICU can be an emotional rollercoaster, but the
staff was an amazing support system getting me through every step. Even
as a nurse who works at Newark Beth, I didn’t know what to expect.
Stories like Omari's are made possible in part thanks to generous
donations to the Children's Heart Center. As a nonprofit organization,
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center relies on your support to continue giving
the best care to our patients.