Seeing Penelope today, you wouldn’t know this growing baby had a terrifying start to her life. She was born five weeks early in Lethbridge and staying in the NICU when at only a day old, she went into Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) – her heart was beating at a rate of 280 beats a minute. After five days, she was able to go home and her parents monitored her as she slept using an Angelcare movement sensor under her bassinet mattress. But one night the alarm went off alerting her parents she had stopped breathing until her mother touched her back – and that happened seven more times within a half hour. They returned to the Lethbridge hospital for more tests and monitoring. When the day came to be discharged from hospital, Megan was burping Penelope when she went into another SVT episode. Only this time her heart was racing at 295 beats a minute. Her arms and legs turned blue and she had to be intubated before her parents’ terrified eyes. “She didn’t look alive,” Megan says.
Doctors decided they needed specialized help so they called the Pediatric Critical Care Transport Team – a community-funded, dedicated team of Alberta Children’s Hospital experts who transport critically ill kids and babies from smaller hospitals to the Alberta Children’s Hospital. After stabilizing Penelope, they flew her by plane to the hospital while Megan made the stressful two-hour drive to Calgary, not knowing whether her baby would be alive when she arrived. Thankfully because of the team’s life-saving efforts, she was. As Penelope settled into the PICU, she was still fragile – any feeding or diaper change would send her into another SVT episode. For the next five days, intensivists and cardiologists worked together to figure out the right level of medication for her and slowly she started breathing on her own. Today, she takes medication three times a day but is otherwise a happy, growing baby.
Penelope’s family are so grateful she is here today because if it wasn’t for the exceptional care from the transport team and staff in the ICU, her story could have a different ending.
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