By Wendy Smith
Allison was 6 weeks old when she became ill. In the ER, she deteriorated right before our eyes and we were rushed to the NICU. The first 48 hours were spent trying to get ahead of the curve AND figure out what was causing this. We learned Allison had Streptococcus Toxic Shock Syndrome, caused by common strep throat bacteria.
The bacteria alone were not the problem, but the toxins released by the bacteria in her blood caused an 'entire body' infection, which led to multi-organ failure and a host of other complications. We are overwhelmed by this quick life and death situation. We learn our only real option is something called "ECMO" – an ECMO machine provides cardiac and respiratory support to patients whose heart and lungs can no longer function properly. Basically, blood flows out of Allison's body through large rubber tubes into a pump [heart], oxygenating cylinder [lungs], and heater before returning. There is as much blood in the ECMO circuit as in her body. We are forced to also consider the risks of ECMO: infection, blood clotting, and hemorrhaging. However, a major advantage of ECMO, aside from aiding the heart and lungs, is the ability to add dialysis filtering and other treatments without additional stress to the patient.
Allison makes a remarkable recovery due to this treatment. All in all we spend a total of 37 days at Children's Hospital. Allison is discharged with an NG tube and a host of meds but all in all, fairing quite well. Many nurses and doctors who attended to Allison come to say goodbye and cannot believe the recovery she has made. While we still have a long road of rehabilitation in front of us, our daughter is alive.
Words can not fully express how much we appreciate the treatment we and our daughter received at Children's. We loved our fellows, attendings, residents and nurses. I cried when my favorite nurse had the day off and craved her presence when she wasn't there. We truly believe the ECMO treatment and expertise are the reasons Allison is alive. Without this cutting edge treatment and having Children's in our area, Allison would not have survived. You could really tell everyone at Children's is proud of what they do and each patient affects them in a special way.