Erin Murr, of Columbia, had an uneventful pregnancy with no major issues. She and her husband, Kevin Murr, MD, an orthopedic trauma surgeon at Prisma Health Richland Hospital, were eagerly awaiting the birth of their fourth child. Elizabeth Lucille was born in early October 2018.
“She seemed completely healthy, but when she was 18 or 19 hours old, her nurse (Julie Hengeveld, RN) thought her color didn’t look right, so she tested Elizabeth’s oxygen level,” said Erin. Because the oxygen level was so low, she was transferred quickly to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Tests there revealed that Elizabeth had pulmonary hypertension. She was intubated and placed on a ventilator, but her oxygen level remained alarmingly low.
Neonatologist Uma Amarnath, MD, explained that the only option to raise the newborn’s oxygen level was Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO). “If Elizabeth had not been born in a hospital with the ECMO technology available, she could have died,” said Erin. “We are so fortunate that because Elizabeth was born here at Children’s Hospital, there was no delay in the lifesaving care she required.” The Neonatal ECMO Center at Prisma Health Children’s Hospital–Midlands is one of only two in South Carolina.
Additional testing revealed Elizabeth’s congenital heart defect. In a baby born with a total anomalous pulmonary venous return (TAPVR), oxygen-rich blood does not return from the lungs to the left atrium. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in 10,000 babies in the United States is born with a TAPVR.
Prisma Health Children’s Hospital–Midlands pediatric cardiologist and assistant professor of cardiology at the USC School of Medicine Cathy Sechrist, MD, told the Murrs that immediate heart surgery was needed. She arranged for Elizabeth’s transport to have the surgery via a neonatal ambulance equipped with ECMO equipment.
“This is a diagnosis you never want to have to give. Having the ECMO here was paramount in stabilizing Elizabeth,” said Sechrist. “The NICU team was very attentive to the family’s needs and I was able to give them a realistic picture of what to expect.”
“Dr. Sechrist prepared us for a long recovery after surgery. We were able to stay with family in Charleston for about four weeks and my father cared for our three older children (aged, 8, 6 and 3) so the older two could go to school,” said Erin.
Today, at four months old, Elizabeth is thriving and is expected to lead a normal, active life. She will be able to participate in sports and other activities. Sechrist saw Elizabeth recently and will continue to see her every six months. “We really like Dr. Sechrist. She is kind, informative and upbeat and we have enjoyed having her as Elizabeth’s pediatric cardiologist,” said Erin.
“Elizabeth’s most recent echocardiograms show that her heart is doing well and that she will have no limitations related to her heart,” said Sechrist.
American Heart Month has special meaning for the Murr family. “We are so thankful this level of care is available in our community and we feel fortunate that Elizabeth is doing so well,” said Erin.