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After Overcoming Death-defying Experience, Girl Enjoys Good Health

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Standing in the pediatric emergency department at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong in March 2003, Kathleen and Lou Carrozzi saw their little girl slipping away. Behind the sliding glass door of an examining room, a team of pediatric specialists was administering CPR, making a last-ditch attempt to save the preschooler’s life.

The day before, their 4-year-old daughter, Emily, enjoyed dance lessons, and went to bed seemingly healthy. When she woke up, though, she was vomiting and lethargic, giving her parents the impression that she had a virus. By, mid-afternoon, however, Emily took a visible turn for the worse. Her skin was turning gray, and the usually talkative girl was becoming less responsive. “I thought she was dehydrated,” Kathleen says. “I thought we would go to the hospital and get her some fluids and everything would be OK.”          

Paramedics who were summoned to the family’s Victor home couldn’t get blood a pressure or pulse, and recommended that the girl be rushed to Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong. “Strong isn’t the closest hospital to us, but, fortunately, we said yes,” Kathleen recalls. In large part because of that decision, Emily is one of five Miracle Kids to be featured during the Golisano Children’s Hospital Telethon June 4-5 on 10NBC.

On that March 2003 evening, a team of doctors and nurses were waiting for Emily inside the pediatric emergency department. “I remember them cutting off her pajamas,” Kathleen says. “When we walked in, she was getting a lot of attention, but I was still thinking everything would be fine.”

Within minutes, Emily was receiving CPR, and her survival was in doubt. For the first time, Kathleen and Lou realized they might not take their little girl home again. “I was extremely upset,” Kathleen says. “I was hysterical, on the verge of collapsing.” A social worker comforted the family, as the emergency team continued to work.

With persistence, doctors and nurses stabilized Emily, and she was rushed to the hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). As the only PICU between Buffalo and Syracuse, Golisano Children’s Hospital offers a unique resource to the region, one that isn’t duplicated or found elsewhere. In fact, every child in our region who requires intensive care is admitted to the PICU at Golisano Children’s Hospital.

Emily was in guarded condition, her life still hanging in the balance. Karen Powers, M.D., who raced to the emergency department upon Emily’s arrival, consulted with a number of her colleagues, including her off-duty colleague, Jeff Rubenstein, M.D., who lent his advice during a phone consultation.

It was after midnight by the time Kathleen and Lou saw Emily again. Peter Harris, M.D., a veteran cardiologist, visited with the family during the early morning hours, explaining that their daughter might have some sort of massive infection. Concerns were raised that the infection may have damaged some of Emily’s organs, including her heart.

By Tuesday, lab cultures confirmed what doctors began to suspect a day earlier: Group A strep, which had infiltrated Emily’s blood stream, caused her near-fatal illness. Already, decisions made in the emergency department upon her arrival were proving to be wise. Emily had received wide-ranging antibiotics during her first hour at the hospital, and they were able to stem the infection. She slowly recovered, spending 10 days in the PICU. Kathleen and Lou Carrozzi spent every possible moment at Emily’s side, and saw firsthand how the staff saved their daughter’s life.

“The choices that were made, and the medications that were given, the doctors and nurses were right every step of the way,” Lou says. “We now know how lucky we are to have Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester. Had she not been treated by people who were so familiar with children… I don’t want to think of what might have happened.”           

Doctors marvel at Emily’s near-perfect health, and are positive that the actions taken upon her arrival helped stave off other potential problems, such as kidney damage. She sees a cardiologist once a year to make sure her heart is developing normally. This fall, Emily started kindergarten. She enjoys school, sports, and playing with her brother, 3-year-old Patrick.

During Emily’s hospital stay, Kathleen received some advice from Rubenstein, medical director of the PICU. “He said, ‘You’ll never be the same, but she won’t be remember much of this.’ And he was right. I still think about it every day. I think about it every night when I check on her before bed.”   

Miracle Weekend includes two major events. The Golisano Children’s Hospital Telethon will be broadcast live from the hospital’s main lobby June 4-5 on 10NBC. In addition, Miracle Weekend always includes the Stroll for Strong Kids; registration and children’s events start at 9 a.m. Saturday, June 5, with the Stroll kicking into high gear at 11 a.m. When finished with their Stroll, walkers will be treated to a free lunch provided by Subway. There will be music by Gary the Happy Pirate, and many fun activities for the kids.

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