Medical professionals set miracles into motion to save the life of Carly Weis' baby whose heart was failing
Carly Weis does not remember being panicked as she rode in the back of an ambulance, holding an oxygen mask to her son’s face. She was focused but not freaking out. It is only now, weeks later, as the Honeoye Falls resident re-tells the story, that she acknowledges her 18-day-old son could have died that day.
“I can’t thank the people responsible for saving Owen’s life enough,” remarked Weis. "We are so lucky that everything worked out the way it did. He should lead a completely normal life.”
Owen Lashomb was born by C-section on Sept. 9, weighing 7 pounds, 4 ounces. There were no complications, and he passed all the markers at his two-week check-up. Weis says he was rarely fussy, so she was surprised how agitated he was, three days later, as she drove home from dropping off her 2-year-old son, Jonah, at a pre-school class.
“I thought the car ride would soothe him,” Weis said. “When we got home, Owen was still crying and he wouldn’t nurse. I noticed he was breathing faster than normal, but I figured he was just all worked up.”
A few minutes later, Weis “googled” how many breaths a 2-week old baby should take in one minute. She counted Owen’s breaths, and the number was double what Google indicated should be normal. She counted again. Same result. She decided to call her pediatrician at Pittsford Pediatrics.
“I wasn’t worried at that point, but it was a Friday and I wanted to see if a doctor thought I should do something before the weekend kicked in,” said Weis.
The first person she spoke to was Lindsey Henning, a registered nurse. Weis described the baby’s condition and the nurse asked if Weis could bring him to the office before it closed for lunch.
Weis asked if this would interfere with the doctor’s schedule, but the nurse stopped her mid-sentence and said, “Something made you call us. If you can bring the baby in, why don’t you? The doctor can listen to his lungs.”
“I’m so grateful that nurse suggested I come in because if she had not encouraged me, it would have been a whole different outcome,” recalled Weis.
Weis packed up the baby and drove him, still crying, to the doctor’s office on Monroe Avenue in Pittsford. Pediatrician Cathy Hahn listened to Owen’s chest and within seconds, told the new mom, “You were right to bring him in. Something’s not right.”
Weis estimates it was less than a minute before a second pediatrician, Dr. Rahul Sengupta, came into the room with an oxygen tank and began administering it to Owen. Dr. Hahn told a nurse to call 911 and get the Pittsford Ambulance there as quickly as possible. The entire staff went into “Alert Mode.” It was all hands on deck.
“The baby did not have good color,” said Hahn. “He was laboring to breathe and I heard a cardiac murmur I had not detected at his check-up just a few days before. I knew we needed to get this baby to a cardiologist.”
In the early weeks of life, a newborn shifts from receiving oxygen via fetal circulation to breathing with his lungs. This process was not happening properly in Owen’s body because of a congenital heart defect which doctors had not yet detected.
It was “severe coarctation of the aorta,” which means there was a narrowing in the aorta and Owen’s was functionally “pinched off.” As he grew bigger, his lungs and organs were not getting the necessary blood and oxygen. By the 18th day of his life, Owen was struggling to breathe and had all the signs of heart and respiratory failure.
“When I heard that murmur, I knew I needed to start preparing this baby for emergency open heart surgery,” said Hahn.
She called the Golisano Children’s Hospital and warned doctors of the severity of Owen’s case. She told them to have pediatric cardiac staff on stand-by because the baby was in severe respiratory distress with a probable congenital heart defect.
When paramedics from Pittsford Volunteer Ambulance arrived, she repeated the information and interjected that they should keep the oxygen flowing. She urged them to get the baby to Strong as fast as possible. “Go all lights and sirens on. Don’t stop for red lights.”
Even that emphatic statement did not seem to rattle Carly Weis. She called her husband and calmly told him they were going to the emergency room. She also did not want to inconvenience anyone, so she offered to drive the baby in her personal car. “I didn’t want to take an ambulance out of service in case someone else needed it more,” she explained.
The paramedics simply told her to get in the back of the emergency vehicle and hold the oxygen mask over Owen’s tiny face.
Weis started to realize the seriousness of the situation when they pulled up to the emergency entrance. “It was like a TV show. Doctors, nurses, all kinds of people were there, waiting, to whisk Owen into the pediatric intensive care unit,” she recalled.
Weis says the two paramedics remained at the hospital for hours, waiting with her and her husband as Owen went through a battery of tests to determine if he was strong enough to endure heart surgery. “It was clear the paramedics had become emotionally connected to our case,” said Weis. “Probably because they understood there was a chance my baby wouldn’t make it, so I appreciated their presence.”
Weis and her husband have counted the blessings that came every step of the way. It took four days for Owen’s condition to stabilize so he was strong enough to survive heart surgery. There were setbacks in the days that followed, but he continually improved and was released 16 days after his near-death experience. Doctors have given him a prognosis for normal heart function and complete recovery.
Owen’s mother loves to talk about the miracles she witnessed throughout this process. She says it all started at Pittsford Pediatrics with a nurse who did not ignore a mother’s intuition and a pediatrician who recognized the critical nature. Her insistence to get the baby to the hospital as fast as possible clearly made a difference — and do not forget the importance of having an experienced cardiac surgeon based in Rochester. Dr. George Alfieres operated on Owen’s heart, which was the size of a walnut, and repaired the pinched aorta which was about the diameter of a drinking straw.
“No wonder they refer to him as ‘God’ at Golisano,” remarked Weis.
Weis has decided to extend her maternity leave because of Owen’s situation. She will return to a full schedule at “Breathe” in Pittsford after the New Year. As a licensed acupuncturist and yoga instructor, Weis knows that her years of meditation training probably kept her calm when the emergency hit. However, she is convinced the outcome was completely determined by the angels who surrounded her son that day.
“Everyone not only did their jobs, but they were also very passionate about what they were doing. Paying full attention to me and my baby,” said Weis. “I am so grateful for their expertise. Owen probably would not have survived without these wonderful professionals.”