Special Delivery Required a Village of Specialists for Mother with Heart Disease
SACRAMENTO, Calif., November 23, 2009 - As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. For Stephanie Parker of Sacramento, it took a village of medical specialists to deliver her child, Maya.
Giving birth is supposed to be one of the most joyful times in a woman’s life, but in Parker’s case it was also one of the scariest. When Parker, 26, gave birth at Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento, she knew it wouldn’t be a routine delivery. From the time she was a little girl, she has suffered from a congenital heart defect and atrial fibrillation, or abnormal heart rhythm. Along with the many risks associated with child birth, her congenital heart defect posed the greatest threat to Parker and her unborn baby girl.
Because of her condition, her pregnancy was considered high-risk maternity, and a team of specialists were called in to oversee Parker’s delivery in the event that her heart failed. William Gilbert, M.D., the medical director of Women’s Services at Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, says that women with heart defects have a 50/50 chance of dying while giving birth because of the enormous amount of stress placed on the mother’s heart due to the pregnancy.
“It’s rare to need a multidisciplinary team like the one we set up, but it is very important for high-risk patients like Stephanie,” said Dr. Gilbert, who is a perinatologist, specializing in the care of women with high-risk pregnancies. “Because there was a real chance that her heart would fail at the time of delivery, we set her up for the possibility of her undergoing a heart surgery in addition to a repeat Caesarean section.”
On Monday, Oct. 26, Dr. Gilbert delivered her by a planned Caesarean delivery under the watchful eye of several specialist teams that stood ready to assist in the event she went into heart failure. The teams ready and waiting included: perinatologists; neonatologists; the intensive care unit; the adult cardiovascular surgical team; the pediatric cardiovascular surgeon who specializes in congenital heart defects; bypass perfusionists; both cardiac and obstetrical anesthesiologists; radiologists; the lab, and the blood bank.
“He’s wonderful,” Parker said of Dr. Gilbert. “He’s so knowledgeable and so personable; he makes you feel like you can just tell him anything and you know that he’s able to fix it.”
Having successfully delivered two baby girls, Parker has decided to have a tubal ligation to prevent another pregnancy. Giving birth to another baby would put her at even more risk for heart failure and it would take years off her life.
“I don’t know who would kill me first, my cardiologist or my mom,” Parker jokes.
“I think having done this successfully with a patient with such complex anatomy, we are more ready to start looking at how we can provide this to other patients because more and more children who had severe cardiac anomalies at birth are now surviving,” said Karen Kiyomura, R.N., director of Labor and Delivery at Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento.
Parker gave birth to her first daughter at another hospital in the Bay Area in September 2008, in which she describes her experience as “scary” because she wasn’t familiar with any of the doctors or nursing staff who cared for her. Parker is grateful that Sutter was able to provide her and her baby with the care that they needed. When she was having a difficult time coping with her situation, the nurses took her care to the next level.
“They got me flowers and a stuffed animal — it was heart-warming,” Parker said.
Since 1937, when it opened as Sutter Maternity Hospital, Sutter Memorial Hospital has been the regional center for birth and newborn care. Part of the two-campus Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, Sutter Memorial is where every expectant mother, including those experiencing high-risk pregnancies, can turn for the region’s most advanced care. With more than 300,000 births, more babies have entered the world through Sutter Memorial than any other hospital in the region.
Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, is affiliated with Sutter Health, a not-for-profit, community based health system located throughout Northern California. For more information on Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, visit www.suttermedicalcenter.org.