Shay’s parents, Deric and Julie, received a call from her daycare center. Their daughter was having trouble breathing. What was first thought to be an asthma attack turned out to be something much more serious.
When medication didn’t improve Shay’s breathing, Deric and Julie rushed her to the emergency room near their home. “I wasn’t too concerned, because one of our older children had been to the ER,” Julie said. Besides, there was a history of asthma in her family.
That night, though, Shay’s condition worsened. At 3:30 am., the attending physician recommended transferring her by ambulance to Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital (YNHCH) — a decision that saved Shay’s life.
Halfway to New Haven, the EMT implored the ambulance driver to hurry. By the time they reached the ED at YNHCH, Shay had stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated with CPR. “It was the scariest thing to watch,” Deric recalled.
Shay was stabilized and moved to the pediatric intensive care unit. Tests ultimately revealed that rather than a respiratory condition, she was suffering from a rare heart condition known as mitral valve stenosis. The mitral valve is one of four valves in the heart that open and close with each heartbeat, allowing blood to flow through the heart’s upper and lower chambers and to the rest of the body.
“Shay’s mitral valve was so narrowed that her blood was flowing very poorly,” said Tain-Yen (T-Y) Hsia, MD, chief of pediatric cardiac surgery at YNHCH. In fact, blood was backing up into Shay’s lungs and flooding them, which caused her breathing problems. Surgery, Dr. Hsia determined, was the only solution.
Two months later, when she was 10 months old, Dr. Hsia performed open heart surgery to repair Shay’s damaged valve. “We fixed it,” Dr. Hsia happily announced to her anxious but overjoyed parents. “Bringing her to YNHCH absolutely was the right call,” Deric remarked afterward.
“Today, Shay is healthy and playful again,” said Dina Ferdman, MD, a pediatric cardiologist who monitors her regularly at YNHCH’s Pediatric Specialty Center in Norwalk. “She has so much energy and life,” Julie said. “She’s our miracle baby.”