Amazing Abby Overcomes Cardiac and Pulmonary Challenges

Nearly One, Infant Heads Home for the First Time

Abby has always amazed her parents and medical teams.  The full-term baby was born in April 2017 with a prenatal diagnosis of an atrioventricular canal (AVC) defect and critical coarctation, both congenital heart defects.  And within the span of only nine days, Abby underwent two reparative heart surgeries to save her life. In May, additional medical complications necessitated the placement of a tracheostomy, and mechanical ventilation to breathe.

Once her condition stabilized, Abby’s parents made the decision to transfer her to Blythedale Children’s Hospital.

“I felt Blythedale is where they can help us, and especially our daughter,” said Debora, Abby’s mom. “Everybody that works at Blythedale…  you see their passion for other people, other babies, other patients.”

baby with breathing device

During her time as an inpatient on the Hospital’s Infant and Toddler Unit, Abby received Blythedale’s full spectrum of services, including occupational, physical, speech and feeding therapies. Over the next few months, Abby’s strength, stamina and overall health increased—to such an extent—that she was able to be successfully weaned from her ventilator.

As their baby girl grew, Abby’s mother and father participated in the Hospital’s caregiver training program to learn all aspects of care for their medically fragile daughter, while also gearing up for her potential return home. To give both parents more preparation time, Abby was transferred to the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Pediatric Long Term Care Pavilion at Blythedale Children’s Hospital where she continued her therapies and treatments.

“She was not quite ready to leave and the family was still fine-tuning their training on her feedings, medications and tracheostomy care before the big leap home,” said Dr. Milicent Mitchell, Medical Director of the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Pediatric Long Term Care Pavilion and Blythedale’s Chief of Pediatric Pulmonology. “The team worked very hard with Abby and her parents, on a daily basis, to get everyone where they needed to be.”

baby with clothing being shown to her

In just under six months, a more alert and engaged Abby was surrounded by her family, medical team and new long-term care friends as she said goodbye. She was going home.

“When someone hears long term care, they hear a long time or forever, but in fact we’ve had many, many children go home since our opening in September 2016,” said Catherine Imperatrice, social worker for the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Pediatric Long Term Care Pavilion. “It’s a testament to our highly trained staff and shows that we can work out any kind of issue like training or insurance, and keep plugging along to get these medically complicated children home.”

As Abby, her parents and older brother walked through the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Pediatric Long Term Care Pavilion on their last day, nurses, therapists and doctors took a moment to wish them well. Debora was overcome with tearful emotion as she hugged staffers and thanked them for helping her family,

“We prayed for this day and this progress because when she came, she was on a machine helping her breathe and now she breathes by herself with some (supplemental) oxygen.”

Dr. Mitchell was also smiling as she hugged Abby, her latest long-term care patient to be discharged home.

“The team completed their mission and we’ve proven our patients can go home,” she said. “We will continue helping these children achieve their maximum potential.”