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The Patient Ones: A Heart Day at Work for Camden

“It was such a blur. He was there and then, boom, he was gone. What. Just. Happened?”

That’s how Phil Galloway, Product Sales Specialist for GE Healthcare, describes the first few moments following the birth of his first son, Camden.

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At 22 weeks-gestation (still in the 1st trimester) in his mother’s womb, Camden was diagnosed with a possible heart defect via a routine ultrasound at a heart clinic in Pennsylvania. Because Camden was so little, the ultrasound could not show exactly what was wrong and to what degree, which didn’t allow doctors to give Phil and his wife much information about what to expect.

“All the doctors could really tell at that point was that they thought they saw some issues but nothing serious,” says Phil. “At the most, they said Camden would probably need to see a cardiologist on a regular basis as a child, so we saw no reason to be overly concerned.”

Doctors told Phil and his wife that a much better ultrasound could be taken once Camden was born, allowing them to give a full diagnosis then. For now, they just had to wait.

When they started, there were just three. Now…there were 20. Something wasn’t right.

Phil and his wife were at the hospital. Camden was ready to make his arrival to the world.

But there was something wrong.

When Phil’s wife had first gone into labor, there were only three people in the room. As the birth got closer, it quickly became evident to doctors that Camden’s heart defect was more serious than originally thought. With 20 medical staff members now shuffling around, the room had become overcrowded, and a pinching pressure of uncertainty hung in the air.

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Despite all that was happening, Phil and his wife went ahead with a normal birth, as had been the plan. Eventually, into an eager crowd of people waiting to meet him, Camden was born.

The new parents were given a few short minutes with their son. Then…he was off.

“It was like someone stepping on a water hose”

Almost immediately after being born, Camden was rushed to the Neonatal Infant Care Unit (NICU) on GE Healthcare’s Panda Warmer-s. It was time to take another look at Camden’s heart.

This time around, the ultrasound showed two separate but very serious issues with Camden’s heart. He had a hole in the wall between his two ventricles, and he had a “crimped” aorta.

Because of the hole in the ventricle wall, oxygenated blood was mixing with deoxygenated blood in the lower chambers of Camden’s heart, which could potentially lead to heart failure. The “crimped” aorta was not allowing blood to flow freely to the lower half of Camden’s body, leaving his feet a sort of purplish color. Says Phil, “The crimping was like someone stepping on a water hose while it’s running.”

Immediately after discovering the issues, Phil and his wife were told that Camden would need surgery. The only problem was that the schedule was full. The hospital would have to put Camden on a waiting list until a slot opened up for him. It would likely be days before surgery would take place. All Phil, his wife and Camden could do was wait.

“Even as a new parent, when you’re not sure what’s going to happen, you feel helpless.”

In the NICU Camden settled into a GE Panda Warmer. Says Phil, “Waiting for Camden to have surgery was really tough. The toughest part was that we couldn’t have him in our own room. We would stay all day with him in the NICU and then would have to leave at night. Even as a new parent, when you’re not sure what’s going to happen, you feel helpless. You just obviously hope [the surgery] happens as soon as possible.”

While Camden waited, he was monitored closely by the nurses and doctors.  He was on a strict nutritional diet with a lot of IVs, his heart and vitals being monitored constantly. According to Phil, there were hardly any physical signs of Camden’s condition. “He looked great. It’s just his legs and feet were kind of purple.”

Finally, after six excruciating and uncomfortable days of waiting, Phil and his wife were visited by the doctors. A slot had opened. Camden was set to have surgery.

“It was supposed to last six hours. It actually lasted nine.”

It was July 18th. Camden, not even 10 days old, was about to have open heart surgery.

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The doctors briefed Phil and his wife on the surgery. The surgeons would fix the hole between the two lower ventricles in Camden’s heart by patching the hole. Then they would cut open his aorta and spread it out to reduce the crimping of blood flow to lower part of his body.  It would take about six hours. There was a 10% chance Camden wouldn’t make it.

For Phil and his wife, the initial six hours seemed longer than six days. Especially after the six hours had passed and Camden was still not out of surgery. Eventually seven hours would pass. Then eight.

Somewhere in the midst of the ninth hour, Camden came out of surgery. Doctors said he had done great. Phil and his wife had given birth to quite a little fighter. But the battle wasn’t over just yet.

“Every day was hoping to get one step closer to going home.”

Following his surgery, Camden was moved from the NICU to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) to recover. He would end up staying there for about two weeks.

Phil and his wife, ecstatic that the surgery went well, slept right under the monitors that were hooked up to Camden for the entire time he was in the PICU. Says Phil. “Every time an alarm went off, we would instantly wake up to make sure everything was fine.”

As the days passed, Camden slowly grew stronger. Phil notes that the first few days in the PICU were the roughest because Camden looked terrible. But he did great in his surgery and that’s all that mattered. Says Phil, “Every day [we were] hoping to just get one step closer to going home. We were just hoping one more cord or tube would be taken out.”

After two weeks, the doctors said Camden was healthy and strong enough to leave.

Camden was coming home.

“You forget that one monitor or one bed warmer, one device can help save so many lives.”

Camden is now 17 months old and doing very well. For the first few months after surgery, Camden had to visit the cardiologist on a monthly basis for routine checkups. Now, he goes every six months. Phil and his wife are hoping Camden will eventually have to go only once a year.

Apart from the scar on his chest, Camden has grown up like any other little boy. He’s happy and full of life, perhaps with no memory of the battles he’s already had to fight.

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For Phil and his wife, they’ve walked away from their experience with a sense of relief and thankfulness. “We just want to thank the entire medical staff that cared for Camden,” says Phil. “Everyone we dealt with was amazing and helpful and we’re so thankful for what they did to make sure Camden was okay.”

When asked what it was like to see Camden cared for with GE devices, Phil says there was comfort knowing it was durable, top-of-the-line equipment. He also says seeing the GE devices in action offered a different perspective than just looking at them as items to sell. “You think of everything in numbers and moving quantities. You forget that one monitor or one bed warmer, one device can help save so many lives. It was amazing to see these products in action. You can read a brochure or look at a spec sheet, but to see a medical device actually perform and do what it’s meant to do is incredible.”

Looking back now on those most trying of times that Camden was in the hospital, Phil and his wife offer perhaps their most lasting piece of advice to those expecting a new addition to their family: “Some people say they really want a boy or are really hoping for a girl. Just hope your baby is healthy. Seriously. In the grand scheme of things, it’s all that matters.”