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Patients in the Spotlight: Stella Tortora

Thanks to Rapid Response from Medical Team, Stella Breathes Easy

Julie Tortora shares her frightening experience of having to rush her newborn baby, Stella, to the Pediatric Emergency Medicine Department at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Stella Tortora

We owe our daughter’s life to the Pediatric Emergency Medicine Department at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). Stella Marie Tortora was born five weeks premature, on Oct. 21, 2006 (at Rochester General Hospital). Stella was having trouble breathing so at 17 days old, I rushed her to URMC’s pediatric emergency room. By the time I got there, she was in respiratory failure.

The next several hours were like an episode of the television show “E.R.” Upon entering the doors of the emergency room, the nurse took one look at her tiny blue face, grabbed her and got right to work. She gathered a team to help as she rushed Stella into a room in the back of the ED. I watched with amazement as a swarm of doctors and nurses ran to meet her in a matter of seconds.

All I could do was watch as the nurses and doctors worked together to stabilize my baby, who was just 4 lbs and no bigger than the baby doll she still cuddles today. The fear was oppressive. I could barely breathe myself. It was frightening to watch as they hooked her up to wires and tubes, made phone call after phone call, and moved around her like a well orchestrated dance. I had so many questions. Thank heavens for the social worker who came to sit with us and give us a play-by-play of the team’s every move. She kept telling me to stay calm and watch the faces of all those who worked on Stella.

Stella in the hospital as a baby“Look at their faces,” she said. “They’re not worried. They work fast, but they are calm. She will be fine.” 

She was right! We spent one week in Golisano Children’s Hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), where Stella was sedated and placed on respirators to breathe for her while the doctors performed many tests to figure out what had caused her troubles. We found out that Stella had a rare type of pneumonia called Klebsiella pneumonia. It had caused her respiratory failure and led to septic shock.

Stella was alert and the breathing almost on her own after that first week. We spent one more week on the Golisano Children’s Hospital’s general pediatric floor while her lungs grew stronger and she was weaned off oxygen. By the grace of God, she suffered no lasting effects and she is now a vibrant and feisty 4-year-old who knows exactly what she wants!

Our family members and friends on Team Stella look forward to the Stroll for Strong Kids every year, and Stella understands that we do it to celebrate her life and to help other kids who are sick like she once was. Thank you for letting us share our story and thank you to Golisano Children’s Hospital for being the best children's hospital in our area! People don't know what a gem it truly is until they have had to rely on the hospital to save their child. 


Julie Tortora

Click here to make a contribution to Golisano Children's Hospital on behalf of Team Stella.