Omari

Tiny Patient Gets a Rare Heart Catheterization

OmariOnly 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 a ligation.

“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 the catheterization.

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 healthier baby.

“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 23 pounds.

“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,” says Tanisha.

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.”

  • A Letter From Tanisha

  • “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 to breathe.

    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.

    Tanisha Anderson
    Union, NJ

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