Born Without a Heartbeat, Southern Tier Baby Recovers and Thrives

May 29, 2003

Sandra King was already three-quarters of the way through her pregnancy, so it wasn’t a surprise that she was having triplets. Nor was it unexpected when doctors ordered a c-section eight weeks before her due date. She was shocked, however, by those endless minutes - more than 15, by all accounts - when the heart of one of her babies seemingly ceased beating.

That baby, Madison, is one of the thousands of children cared for each year at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong. As part of its Miracle Weekend celebration May 31 and June 1, the hospital will honor five infants, children, and teens - including Madison - as Miracle Kids. Each overcame significant health problems while being treated at Golisano Children’s Hospital, the only hospital in the Rochester region devoted to children.

It wasn’t until Sandra King entered the third trimester of her pregnancy that she began experiencing difficulty. After undergoing routine ultrasounds, concern mounted about how much one of the triplets - later named Madison - was growing and moving. Physicians referred the Kings to Strong Memorial Hospital and Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong, two hours away from the family’s Olean-area home.

For a week, perinatologists specializing in the care of high-risk pregnancies closely monitored the situation. With one of the babies showing significant signs of stress, they weighed the risks of premature delivery versus allowing the pregnancy to continue. “They decided to do a c-section,” Sandra King says. “As they were prepping me, they had me on the fetal monitor. That is when we lost Madison’s heartbeat. Things went downhill quickly.”

On the way to the operating room, neonatologists from Golisano Children’s Hospital were privately concerned that Madison had died. Incredibly, the infant survived a more than 15-minute stretch of time during which her heartbeat was undetectable. Still, it was hardly a time to celebrate. Madison was in big trouble.

The APGAR scale is a standard measure of a newborn’s health. It measures Activity, Pulse, Grimace (reflexes), Appearance, and Respiration, and a score typically is assigned to each aspect one minute and five minutes after birth. A score of seven to 10 is considered normal, while a score of four through seven might require some resuscitative measures. A newborn who has an APGAR score of three or less requires immediate resuscitation and is at risk for injury to brain and other organs.

In Madison’s case, the data underscored her dire situation. “Her scores were as poor as could be,” says Gloria Pryhuber, M.D., a neonatologist who cared for the baby. “At one minute and five minutes, her APGAR score was zero. After 10 minutes, it was only two. When she was born, we quickly saw evidence that showed us that she’d gone a prolonged period of time - quite possibly 15 minutes or more - without either blood flow or oxygen. She required full resuscitation efforts in the delivery room.”

“Essentially, she was clinically dead when she was born,” says Madison’s father, Jay King. “They spent nine minutes reviving her. Even then, the doctors didn’t paint a very good picture. I was pressing them for answers and they were being very honest with me about Madison’s condition. My expectation at that time was that she wasn’t going to survive.”

The Kings were concerned about possible damage to the heart and brain, but tests confirmed Madison had inexplicably escaped unharmed. With medication to improve heart, lung and kidney function, careful fluid management and breathing support, Madison began to recover rapidly. After four weeks, she was discharged from the NICU and was on her way to a full recovery. “Her neurological and cognitive development is normal,” Pryhuber says. “It is difficult to distinguish Madison from her identical twin.”

Interestingly, doctors detected an artery-to-artery connection between Morgan and Madison. “It is possible that Morgan was providing some blood flow to sustain Madison before birth,” Pryhuber says. “It’s also possible that this connection was responsible for Madison’s growth failure and near death. That Madison survived is not so much the miracle, because we relatively frequently resuscitate babies. The miracle is that she appears to be largely unscathed. She was probably somewhat protected by being chronically stressed inside the womb - those babies tend to be a little tougher - and by being premature. Although premature babies are at greater risk for bleeding in the brain area, they do tend to be more resistant to episodes of poor blood flow or oxygenation.

These days, Madison and her sisters - Morgan and Mikayla - are walking, talking, and causing general havoc, the Kings joke. They’re left with good memories of the staff and facilities at Golisano Children’s Hospital, which they credit for helping to save their daughter’s life. “I thought they were very open and would take the time to explain in layman’s terms what they were doing and why they were doing it,” Jay King says. “They made you feel like you were part of the team taking care of your children.

If you have a sick child, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather have them treated.”

Miracle Weekend is always one of the most exciting times of the year for Golisano Children’s Hospital. It includes two major events, proceeds from which will help fund priority projects, such as a new, 22-bed Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit the hospital intends to build.

The Golisano Children’s Hospital Telethon will be broadcast live from the hospital on 10NBC May 31 and June 1. In addition, Miracle Weekend always includes the Stroll for Strong Kids, to be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 31, at Genesee Valley Park. Children’s activities and registration will begin at 9 a.m. When finished with their “Stroll,” walkers will be treated to a free lunch. There will be music by Gary the Happy Pirate, and many fun activities for the kids.

Participants are asked to raise money through sponsorship pledges from family members, friends and co-workers. Last year, about 1,000 people took part, raising more than $100,000 for Golisano Children’s Hospital. Pre-registration is required. To register for the Stroll for Strong Kids, or learn more about any Miracle Weekend event, call 585-273-5948. ###

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