Baby Reid came into the world at just 33 weeks – which is prematurely – but not young enough to cause great concern. However, when he wasn’t growing, several experts at the ACH looked into why. What they learned was that his spleen was enlarged and he had low platelets, but no one – not Cardiology, Infectious Diseases or Hematology – could say why. Until Reid was seen by Dr. Alfred Yeung in the GI Clinic. Incredibly, Dr. Yeung was able to identify that Reid had an extremely rare condition called Portal Hypertension. Veins coming from the stomach, intestine, spleen and pancreas all merge into the main portal vein, which then branches into smaller vessels and travels through the liver. Reid’s was blocked at the liver which could cause increased pressure in the vessels – some of which are only 3mm in diameter. Tiny Reid would eventually need a surgery to reroute blood flow away from the liver to ease the pressure, but his surgeon, Dr. Mary Brindle, wanted to wait to do the operation until he was bigger. Justtwo weeks later, while vacationing in Florida, one of the vessels ruptured and caused a life-threatening GI bleed. With Reid vomiting blood, the family rushed him to the children’s hospital in Orlando, who weren’t familiar with Reid’s rare condition. Thankfully, his parents understood what was happening and convinced the US doctors that Reid had suffered vessel rupture. Reid’s doctors at the ACH were contacted and essentially oversaw Reid’s care – including a surgery to fix the bleed – from afar.
Back in Calgary, Reid’s care team navigated the fine balance between waiting for Reid to get bigger for his main diversion surgery and managing the many bleeds that kept springing up. Finally, the bleeds became too frequently and urgent surgery was needed. However, Dr. Brindle was on sabbatical at Harvard Medical School. As she is one of only a couple of surgeons in Canada with the skill to do this operation, Dr. Brindle arranged for the family to travel to Toronto Sick Kids, where Dr. Brindle’s surgical mentor would perform the operation. Even more incredible was Dr. Brindle flew from Boston to observe the surgery and be there with her patient. The diversion surgery was successful and today, only 25% of Reid’s blood goes through the liver. The liver is so efficient that’s enough to clean his blood. The pressure is completely regulated and the GI bleeds have stopped. However, Reid suffered a rare side effect – where too many toxins (ammonia) built up in his brain to the point he became unresponsive. The reason Christine knew about this condition – called Hepatic encephalopathy – is because Reid’s Metabolics specialist, Dr. Aneal Khan had told them that in extremely rare cases, this was a possibility. If it ever happened, they were to rush to the ACH Emergency Department and call him. This is what they did and Dr. Khan came in the middle of the night to help Emergency Physicians care for Reid. He was treated with medication and quickly bounced back. With several appointments at ACH each week, Reid is a “frequent flyer,” yet is a fully-functioning five-year-old. He dances with the Alberta School of Ballet, plays the violin and cross country skis!
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