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Hiawatha, IA 52233

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Skyla's Heart Care Story: Pediatric Heart Care at Birth

by -

Baby Skyla held by Dr. Bhurtel with mom left and dad on right

As told by her mom, Tiffany

On March 8 my husband and I went in for what we thought would be a regular OB checkup at Regional Family Medical Center in Manchester. We were 36 weeks, 6 days into our pregnancy. During the checkup, our doctor noticed a spike in our daughter, Skyla's heart rate (around 190) and sent us down to OB for additional monitoring. In OB they conducted a non-stress test and ultrasound to take a closer look at Skyla's movement. During that time, Skyla's heart rate stayed consistently high and she also showed very little movement. Our doctor decided an emergency C-section was needed.

Baby Arrives

As expected, we were very anxious and nervous about what was to come, however, our doctor and the surgical team at Regional Medical Center did a wonderful job at calmly explaining the C-section procedure. They also contacted the NICU team in case of complications. We could not have asked for a more streamlined and smooth process and Skyla made her way into this world at 8:16 p.m.

At that time, the NICU team felt no need to take Skyla to St. Luke's so they Skyla was monitored at Manchester. After 24 hours of ECG testing and monitoring in Manchester, Skyla still showed no signs of progress and her heart rate remained heightened. 

St. Luke's NICU

Despite monitoring for 24 hours there was no improvement of her heart rate. Our doctor had been in continual contact with Dr. Dilli Bhurtel and the pediatric cardiology team to try and thoroughly troubleshoot Skyla's issue. By approximately 9 p.m. on Friday evening it was decided it would be best for Skyla to receive additional care from St. Luke's NICU/pediatric cardiology teams and she was taken down to St. Luke’s by ambulance. It was so reassuring and comforting to know our doctor and the team in Manchester worked diligently with Dr. Bhurtel to make sure Skyla was well taken care of.

Meeting Dr. Bhurtel and team

After being discharged from Manchester, we arrived at St. Luke's around 11 p.m. By the time we made it to Skyla's room, Dr. Bhurtel and the NICU team had already been diligently caring for Skyla and did an echocardiogram to get a better view of how Skyla’s heart was functioning. By this time, we were physically and emotionally drained, running solely on adrenaline, but the NICU team made sure we all were well informed and comforted. Dr. Bhurtel also sat down with us to thoroughly go over Skyla's case and also explained expected plan of management. Dr. Bhurtel explained Skyla had a rare form of tachycardia causing a diminishing function within the main pumping chamber. To resolve this, Skyla was given medicine to slow her heart rate and was given a shock to correct her abnormal rhythm, thankfully on the first attempt.

After the correction, Skyla was monitored for 24 hours and another echocardiogram was issued to confirm that her heart did not convert back into abnormal rhythm. Skyla was then discharged on Sunday, March 11.

Back to Normal

Two weeks later, Skyla also had another echocardiogram and follow up appointment with Dr. Bhurtel. He was again so thorough in explaining the chain of events and even took us into his observation room to show us how Skyla’s heart was functioning when she came to the NICU compared to the image that was taken at her checkup.

Being first-time parents we were already anxious about Skyla’s arrival, but Dr. Bhurtel’ s experience and abundance of kindness gave us the confidence and reassurance that Skyla would have a successful recovery. It is definitely apparent the love and passion Dr. Bhurtel has for this field and we are forever grateful for his compassionate service and respect towards our new family.

From Dr. Bhurtel

“Skyla was born with a rare form of tachycardia, neonatal atrial flutter, which occurs in 1 out of 50,000 births. This may not follow the classical teaching of supraventricular tachycardia where the heart rate is greater than 220 beats per minute. Skyla’s heart rate was around 180-190 beats per minute which can be normal in a newborn. Her primary doctor, Dr. Timothy Gerst, suspected the abnormality and sought help promptly. 

Dr. Andrew Nordine and Dr. Angela Hansen of the St. Luke's NICU team provided excellent neonatal care during the entire process. I feel very privileged to be part of the amazing group of people dedicated to provide the excellent care locally. Most importantly, having a family that was on board and extremely helpful, despite their fears, worries and exhaustion, made the entire course of action possible. The parents did an absolutely wonderful job remaining calm in a stressful and scary time, which allowed the team to provide the best care for Skyla. 

Also, with the advancement of fetal echocardiography, Skyla’s condition can be diagnosed even before birth. This service is available at Unity Point Clinic - Pediatric Cardiology at St Luke’s Hospital. When there is lack of variability or suspected fetal tachycardia, we would be happy to see the unborn child to complete a fetal echocardiogram. This will provide a diagnosis before delivery, thus creating smooth transition for both mother and baby in preparation for the birth.