A High-Risk Pregnancy and a Congenital Heart Defect
Jaime and Jose had their hands full. As a blended military family, they had five energetic children who kept them on their toes. But the couple always knew they wanted to have a baby together.
In the winter of 2021, Jaime had an inkling she might be pregnant.
“I took a pregnancy test,” Jaime said. “When I saw the positive symbol, I couldn’t believe it. I called Jose and told him, ‘We’re pregnant.’ And he was like, ‘What?’ We were happy and super excited.”
Jaime faced two factors that made her pregnancy high risk. Her first baby was born prematurely, and she was over the age of 35. With these conditions in mind, she had more frequent visits with her OB-GYN and Maternal Fetal Medicine physicians at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) to monitor her pregnancy and baby more closely.
“My first trimester was fine,” Jaime said. “The second trimester was a little rough. At 20 weeks, we found out our son had a single kidney. Besides that, his ultrasounds were normal. He was growing and developing right on track. Then, when I was around 21 weeks, I started feeling really bad.”
Jaime began having frequent dizzy spells. The numbing and tingling in her hands due to carpal tunnel syndrome intensified. And her body swelled due to fluid retention.
Then, at 23 weeks pregnant, her blood pressure spiked.
“My BP was through the roof,” Jaime said.
Jaime developed preeclampsia, a condition that typically occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy and includes high blood pressure along with signs of organ damage. If left untreated, it can endanger the health of both the mom and baby. Jaime was immediately admitted to the BAMC, one of the nation’s leading military hospitals.
“I took blood pressure medication four times a day,” Jaime said. “I also was prescribed magnesium sulfate to prevent pre-term labor and reduce my risk of seizures due to preeclampsia. We tried to keep the baby in as long as possible, but my preeclampsia was getting worse. When my organs started failing, the doctors were like, we have to take him out or you both aren’t going to make it.”
Two weeks after being admitted to the hospital, Jaime and Jose welcomed their son, Aidan Isales, on June 26, 2022. He was born via C-section at nearly 26 weeks and weighed just one pound.
“He was so tiny and fragile,” said Jaime. “When he was in the NICU, the nurses wanted to see if he could breathe on his own. But very shortly, they realized he couldn’t, so he was put on a ventilator. He was in an incubator with cords hanging off of him. We couldn’t hold him for a week and a half.”
An unexpected heart diagnosis
When Aidan was 2 weeks old, Jaime and Jose learned their son had a serious heart condition. He had patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), a congenital heart defect common among premature infants.
PDA occurs when the opening between two major blood vessels (aorta and pulmonary artery) leading from the heart, fails to close shortly after birth. If the hole does not close properly, the extra blood can cause fluid to build up in the lungs making it difficult for babies to breathe.
Along with PDA, Aidan also had an inguinal hernia, where part of the intestine protrudes through the inguinal canal. Because of these conditions, Jaime’s doctors suggested Aidan be transferred to CHRISTUS Children's for care.
“We were devastated by the diagnoses,” Jaime said. “Our baby was tiny, on a ventilator, and now had a heart problem. One thing happened after another. It was definitely hard for us, but we knew Aidan was in good hands. He was in an amazing NICU, but since CHRISTUS Children’s is world-renowned and has a Level IV NICU, the doctors wanted us to go there so Aidan could get a higher level of care.”
Aidan transferred to CHRISTUS Children’s
On July 29, 2022, Aidan was transported via ambulance to CHRISTUS Children’s where a NICU team was waiting for him. As a Level IV NICU, CHRISTUS Children’s delivers the highest level of specialized care for premature and critically ill babies with low-birth weights and those who have multiple and complex medical issues.
Aidan’s parents met with a pediatric surgeon regarding their son’s hernia. Luckily, he was able to push the hernia back in, which resolved it without surgery. Meanwhile, Aidan’s PDA was closely monitored by his care team.
“They gave him acetaminophen initially and then ibuprofen in an attempt to medically close the PDA,” said Jaime. “Neither of these medications worked. So, Aidan had to undergo a procedure to close his PDA. Dr. Almasarweh drew a picture for us and showed step-by-step how he planned to close Aidan’s PDA.”
Aidan undergoes PDA cardiac catheterization procedure
In August 2022, Dr. Saleem Almasarweh, an interventional pediatric cardiologist, performed the PDA closure on Aidan using an Amplatzer Piccolo™ Occluder, a self-expanding, wire mesh device designed to fit within the PDA of very tiny premature infants weighing as little as two pounds.
“To close Aidan’s PDA, we inserted the Piccolo device through a small incision in the femoral artery in the leg and guided the device through the blood vessels in his heart where it closed the hole between the aorta and pulmonary artery,” said Dr. Almasarweh. “Our pediatric interventional cardiology team performs these minimally invasive, nonsurgical PDA closures on the tiniest premature babies, reducing the need for riskier surgical procedures, like open-heart surgery.”
“Aidan did well after the procedure,” Jaime said. “It took a while for the PDA to fully close, but once it did, his breathing improved. By the time we left the NICU, he was off the ventilator. His feedings improved too. He didn’t need a feeding tube anymore, he started taking the bottle.”
125 days in the NICU
“The entire team was amazing,” said Jaime. “I can’t say enough great things about them. They updated us on everything and supported us. We have a blended family [five children], so I couldn’t stay in the NICU all day and night with Aidan even though I wanted to. But I knew he was in the best hands. The doctors and nurses called me if something significant happened. They were very dependable.”
A Healthy, Happy Aidan
Aidan, at 9 months old, is doing great. He is growing, eating more, gaining weight, and is a super happy and feisty baby who loves to smile, look at everything, and talk to everyone.
He sees his doctors for regular follow-up visits including his cardiologist at the military hospital and two specialists at CHRISTUS Children’s. Jayme Krueger, a pediatric nurse practitioner in pulmonology, monitors his lung function since he was on a ventilator for a long time and a pediatric nephrologist sees Aidan regularly to make sure his single kidney is healthy and functioning as it should.
“Aidan has brought so much joy to our family of eight,” Jaime said. “We are glad he received the right care when he needed it. We are grateful to all the doctors and nurses who took care of him.”
To learn more about the CHRISTUS Children’s Heart Center, please visit: Pediatric Cardiology & Heart Care | CHRISTUS Health