Despite having an autoimmune disorder, Liz said her second pregnancy had gone normally — until an ultrasound at 33 weeks.
She and husband Chad were stunned to discover their baby had an enlarged heart.
Immediately, Liz’s maternal fetal medicine specialist referred her to the Fetal Cardiology Program at Lurie Children’s. The program is part of the nationally ranked Heart Center and The Chicago Institute for Fetal Health at Lurie Children’s. Fetal cardiology specialists can provide specialized ultrasound imaging of the heart during pregnancy and interventional care for those who need it. Each year Lurie Children’s pediatric cardiologists perform more than 2,000 fetal echocardiograms around the Chicago area, with a diagnostic accuracy that exceeds 95%.
Liz and Chad met with Dr. Sheetal Patel, the hospital’s Interim director of Fetal/Neonatal Cardiology, and Liz underwent a fetal echocardiogram to get a closer look at the baby’s heart. One of the baby’s heart valves had significant regurgitation of blood from one chamber of the heart to the other, enlarging the heart, and causing blood to flow in the wrong direction. Worse, a week later, a second echocardiogram revealed fluid building up around the baby’s heart and lungs. This fluid can make it difficult for the heart and lungs to function. Without intervention, the baby’s life was at high risk.
“There was a little bit of a mad dash to decide what to do,” Liz recalls. “It was a scary time. Completely unexpected.”
Dr. Patel, an expert in congenital heart defects, used her research skills to figure out why the valve had so much regurgitation and help decide the best course of action for Liz and Chad’s baby. A prolific researcher, she searched available scientific publications for information related to what exactly was happening with the couple’s child, and how to best provide treatment. When only two articles came up, she took the extra step to call the authors of each article, seeking guidance and advice.
“We were so impressed she took the initiative to do that,” Liz said. “It gave us such confidence in Dr. Patel and her recommendations.”
Based on their research, Dr. Patel and her team recommended Liz complete a course of hydrocortisone steroids by mouth for five days. A week later, another echocardiogram revealed that the valve regurgitation showed some improvement but more importantly, the fluid buildup around the baby’s organs “vanished,” Liz said, a huge relief for the family and her doctors.
With the immediate crisis resolved, Liz’s pregnancy continued with regular screenings until 39 weeks, when she was induced. Because the baby’s heart defect remained, Liz and Chad were “prepared for anything” at birth. At delivery time, specialists from neonatology and cardiology team were present.
But when the couple’s baby boy Dylan was born Jan. 20, “he came out crying and didn’t need a single bit of intervention,” Liz said.
Now a year old, Dylan continues to be monitored every few months by Lurie Children’s nationally ranked cardiology team. While his heart defect remains, all tests have shown the heart is functioning well. He is meeting milestones on time – walking, clapping and “climbing stairs with lightning speed,” said Liz, and he is adored by his big sister, four-year-old Vivienne.
“We went from what could’ve been a very bad situation to having a normal baby,” Liz said.“We felt such confidence in the fetal cardiology team overall, throughout the whole process.”