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Quick Action Saves Mom with Undiagnosed Heart Condition and her Newborn Baby

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Quick Action Saves Mom with Undiagnosed Heart Condition and her Newborn Baby

Catrina Witt, 20, of Victorville, had a relatively uncomplicated pregnancy. But on December 29, 2021, back pain with a high fever at 36 weeks’ gestation put her and her baby’s lives at risk.

“I had a fever that quickly shot up to 100.9, so I called my doctor, who recommended I come to the emergency department (ED) immediately,” says Catrina, who said she selected her OB/GYN with Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center (PVHMC) because of the high ratings and reviews of its Women’s Center.

During her drive to PVHMC, Catrina’s fever came down, but she decided to still come to the ED to get checked out due to her concerning back pain.

After running multiple tests, including a check on her kidneys and an electrocardiogram (EKG), nurses administered a COVID-19 test. Catrina tested positive for COVID-19, but even more concerning, her EKG and other heart test results indicated she had suffered a heart attack, which is highly uncommon for an individual her age.

“Because Catrina was advanced in her pregnancy, we recommended she undergo an emergency Caesarean section to save the baby and reduce the strain on her heart to save her life as well,” shared PVHMC cardiologist Suneel Kumar, MD, who added that pregnancy increases strain on the heart in general, and females with a pre-existing heart condition are especially at risk of life-threatening complications.

Thanks to the quick actions of her care team, Catrina delivered a healthy baby girl – Evangeline. Although she tested negative for COVID-19, due to her early arrival, Catrina’s baby had to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at PVHMC for oxygen therapy and to ensure she was meeting her milestones. Unfortunately, strict COVID-19 protocols in place for patient safety prevented Catrina and her family from visiting her baby in the NICU. However, thanks to the generous donors of the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center Foundation, Catrina and her family were able to see baby Evangeline on a secure NicView webcam, 24/7 from her mobile phone..

Immediately after her delivery, Catrina was transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU) for care and monitoring of her heart and blood pressure. Catrina’s mother and fiancé could only visit her for very short periods of time due to hospital COVID-19 protocols and were told her condition was very grave.

“I was so grateful for the ICU staff that kept me updated on what was happening with my daughter, and who took care of her when I couldn’t be there with her,” shared Catrina’s mother, Michelle Witt.

After Catrina stabilized, her medical team ran an additional test – an angiography, which shows how blood circulates within vessels at specific locations in the body – to try to determine what had caused her heart attack and chest pain.

“The angiography showed that the blood flow to Catrina’s heart was going in the opposite direction – not from the aorta – and her lungs were stealing blood from her heart, resulting in a lack of oxygenated blood flow to her heart,” said Dr. Kumar.

Dr. Kumar consulted with PVHMC cardiothoracic surgeon Christine Montesa, MD, and together they were able to diagnose Catrina with a rare congenital heart condition called Anomalous origin of the Left Coronary Artery from the Pulmonary Artery (ALCAPA), which occurs in one of every 300,000 live births. ALCAPA is usually detected within the first few days of life, but if undetected and unrepaired by one year of age, the survival rate is only 10%.

On January 5, Catrina underwent a successful surgery with Dr. Montesa, who was able to repair her heart`s blood flow by closing off the abnormal connection of the coronary artery to the pulmonary artery, and used a bypass graft to bring in a new source of blood flow into the left side of her heart. Dr. Montesa explained that this surgery is similar to treating blockages in patients with coronary artery disease.

“Even in pediatric congenital heart patients, ALCAPA is not common, so I am grateful that I was in the right place at the right time and that I had the knowledge to help Catrina,” shared Dr. Montesa, who has additional training and expertise in pediatric cardiac surgery. “Not only had she experienced multiple heart attacks, but her significant arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats) could have led to sudden cardiac death.” Dr. Montesa added, “It is vital that patients listen to their body and if something feels off, have it checked out by your physician.”

Catrina is now recovering at her home with her healthy baby and will continue to have regular checkups with her cardiologist to ensure her heart health improves.

“I am really grateful for my care team and Dr. Montesa for being able to figure out what was going on and fix it,” said Catrina. “I was so glad that everything could be done at PVHMC and that we didn’t have to be transferred anywhere else.” She added, “My COVID-19 diagnosis was a blessing in disguise because it, along with my pregnancy, helped uncover my heart condition.”

“You could really feel the care and compassion from the team at PVHMC,” Michelle shared. “They truly discuss what’s best for the patient and work together as a team, which I haven’t seen at a hospital before. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to PVHMC - with their heart and expertise, I had no doubt that my family was in good hands.”