Patient Care

Diverse Team Makes Special Delivery in Strong Memorial’s Heart Center

Sep. 18, 2017
Daniel, Jessica and Jackson Driffill.

Strong Memorial Hospital’s Cardiac Catheterization Lab is an unusual place for the birth of a child, but for Jessica Driffill, it was the right place.

The Webster woman’s “special delivery” required a huge team of UR Medicine experts – cardiologists, high-risk obstetricians, neonatologists, anesthesiologists, nurses and support staff – to safely deliver 2-pound, 4-ounce Jackson Driffill 10 weeks early.

Jessica Driffill was hospitalized in the Strong Memorial birthing center Aug. 21, when her water broke 26 weeks into her pregnancy. The obstetrics team closely monitored Driffill for three weeks, to delay delivery as long as possible, allowing the baby to continue growing.  However, obstetrician Eva Pressman, M.D., observed uterine bleeding, which was a sign that Driffill may need to deliver her son soon.

Eva K. Pressman, M.D.

Last Sunday was “a whirlwind of activity that started when I told the nurses that I was having chest pain,” Driffill said. She and her husband, Dan, were very frightened by the turn of events. A year ago, they lost twins when Driffill’s water broke and labor began too early. 

Cardiologists immediately began a series of tests to identify whether there was coronary artery blockage or another serious problem with the 32-year-old woman’s heart. They were unable to detect the source of the problem, and had to take the next step: cardiac catheterization, a minimally invasive technique to capture images of the arteries in the heart.

“The amount of teamwork that occurred to ensure we were able to alleviate her heart pain while protecting the unborn child was amazing,” Pressman said. “We all put our heads together to determine the best course of action and agreed that we would do the cardiac catheterization and then perform a cesarean section to deliver the baby.”

Christopher Cove, M.D.

“I knew I had to be brave and Dan was my rock,” Driffill said. “I had to be calm and let them do their job so that I could be here for Jackson.”

Immediately the cardiac catheterization lab team began preparing for the rare delivery, ensuring all the equipment needed for Driffill’s heart care and the birth of the baby, and that there was space for the specialized teams of caregivers.   

“It was very stressful for the team because it was highly unusual,” said interventional cardiologist Chris Cove, M.D. “We had a high-risk obstetrics patient in heart failure while we were going to deliver her baby. We were all very excited, and nervous, but it went just as we planned.”

Angelo Pedulla, M.D.

Working closely with anesthesiologist Marjorie Gloff, M.D., cardiologists completed the heart procedure and the Obstetrics team immediately performed the c-section. The neonatology team then took the 29-week baby to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Golisano Children’s Hospital.

Driffill’s husband, Dan, said waiting for news about his wife and son “was terrifying. It was a long and very scary day.”

Yet there was a happy ending when doctors shared the good news: his wife’s diagnosis:  cardiomyopathy, a technical term for weakened heart; and their son was doing well in the NICU. Since the birth, a cardiac MRI, a specialized three-dimensional imaging test, identified that Driffill experienced a heart attack previously, which was a surprise to the couple, and cardiologist Angelo Pedulla, M.D., will closely follow her heart function.

“The successful outcome for mother and baby really speaks to why UR Medicine is unique. We’re able to provide this kind of care with no notice and make sure it goes smoothly,” Cove said. 

This was the second time a baby was delivered at Strong Memorial’s cardiac catheterization lab. About 10 years ago, a pregnant woman experiencing a heart attack delivered her baby there, and Cove was among the caregivers then, too.