Erin and Rob Davies of Boardman are not doctors, nor trained ultrasound techs, but even they knew something was wrong when the room suddenly went quiet during their baby’s 20-week ultrasound.
The mid-pregnancy anatomy scan is the prenatal visit many parents look most forward to, where they can see their baby forming in the womb and often identify their gender for the first time.
But for the Davies, it turned into a life-altering experience.
“We didn’t know anything was amiss until the room got very quiet,” Erin said. “I asked, ‘What’s the matter?'”
The ultrasound tech called in the obstetrician, who detected a possible heart defect. He immediately contacted Dr. R. Peter Vande Kappelle, Jr., Akron Children’s pediatric cardiologist, and got the Davies in to see him that same day.
“He said, ‘Whatever Dr. Vande Kappelle tells you, go with,” Rob said.
Dr. Vande Kappelle diagnosed the Davies’ baby girl with a heart defect called atrioventricular septal defect (AVSD); a relatively common one among heart defect types, and one that would require surgery to repair in the months following delivery.
Dr. Vande Kappelle said 1 in 100 babies are born with some form of heart defect. Not all require surgery, but in the Davies’ case, it did.
“It was like we were frozen,” Erin said. “There were no words. You couldn’t believe that’s what you were hearing. Nobody wants to believe that their child is sick. And she was.”
Although they were alarmed and fearful, doctors were confident Erin would ultimately deliver her baby. Further, they told them there would be a point in the baby’s early development when she would show exhaustion and have difficulty gaining weight. That, they said, was the point when surgery would be performed.
Baby Gabriella was born 1 month early and weighed 5 pounds, 11 ounces. Two months and a day later, she reached the point of needing surgery, which was successful; and now 2 1/2 years old, Gabriella is a “typical toddler,” her mother says.
“She can do anything that any other child can do; play sports, jump around, whatever,” Erin said.
Dr. Vande Kappelle said the Davies’ story is one of emphasizing the importance of prenatal screenings.
“The ability we have to find heart defects and plan for their treatment is the safest way to handle them,” Dr. Vande Kappelle said. “Screenings and follow ups lead to great outcomes. Gabriella is doing very well now because of it. We found it early, got an accurate diagnosis and experienced a good outcome.”
The Davies, now expecting another child, have been equally diligent in their prenatal care with this pregnancy, and were cleared of any heart defects with this child, a little boy.
“Go to all your prenatal appointments and take all the precautions for prenatal care that you can,” she said. “Sometimes things just go wrong. My husband and I never missed an appointment. We did everything by the book, but sometimes things just don’t pan out the way you think. In the end, everything was fine.”