Switched at Birth
Patient Name : Emma Provenzano
The minute Chuck Provenzano saw his baby daughter he knew something was not right. She’s blue, he thought to himself. He tried to mask his alarm as Shannon looked to his face for his reaction.
Shannon had wanted to start a family as soon as she and Chuck married. Now two years later, they were having their first child. Everything had gone smoothly during her pregnancy; it was uneventful. Her due date had come and gone, so on the morning of January 25, 2005, doctors induced her labor at Orlando Regional South Seminole Hospital. At 2:10 in the afternoon, little Emma entered the world.
Chuck watched as the nurses moved the tiny arms and legs of his baby daughter. They suctioned out her nose. They massaged her trying to get the oxygen to pink up her skin. But, the look on their faces belied their calm demeanors—something was not right.
What could be wrong? Chuck and Shannon began to worry. Hours passed as Emma underwent several tests. The results revealed she had a heart problem and would need specialized treatment at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children & Women.
Only hours after the birth of her first child, Shannon watched as her daughter left her side in an ambulance while she had to stay behind. An hour later, her husband went to join their daughter and the laughter of other moms on the maternity floor seemed to echo in her room. The only question Shannon heard in her mind, what did I do wrong? Nurses had graciously removed the basinet from Shannon’s room and all the other visual reminders that Emma should have been in the room.
That night Chuck returned home alone. He walked into the bedroom and saw the basinet, the pastel colored clothes, and the little stuffed animals. Everything felt so empty. He wept. And he walked from his room to lie on the couch away from the painful reminders. The new parents were devastated. Something was wrong with their daughter.
Precious and dainty Emma had what pediatric cardiologist Susan desJardins, MD, called the transposition of the great arteries with pulmonary atresia. She explained that this meant Emma’s aorta and pulmonary artery were switched and Emma was not getting oxygen-rich blood; her heart circulated oxygen-depleted blood through her body. “We need to create a connection for blood to flow from her body artery to her lung artery,” she said. Dr. desJardins explained the necessity of mixing the oxygen-rich blood and oxygen-depleted blood since Emma’s heart did not send the blood to her lungs to receive oxygen. For the first of the three-step process, Dr. desJardins explained, Emma would need an artificial connection between the two arteries, a shunt. Then when Emma gets a little older, two additional surgeries will take all oxygen-depleted blood directly to her lungs and make her heart pump only oxygen-rich blood to her body.
Is she going to be okay? Chuck barely got out as tears began to stream. Dr. desJardins assured him that Emma would be fine and have no permanent damage. “She may not grow up to be an Olympic athlete, but she should be able to do anything her little heart desires,” she reassured the anxious father.
“The doctors and staff at Arnold Palmer Hospital helped us to deal with the news of Emma’s heart problem. They had a plan and knew how to handle the situation. This gave us much needed hope,” Chuck explains.
“Our baby had heart problems. We would go and do whatever we needed to make sure she had everything she needed. But Arnold Palmer Hospital had it all.” After a week in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Emma underwent her first open-heart surgery. Pediatric cardiac surgeon William DeCampli, MD, had come highly recommended. So, as they waited in the waiting room, they drew comfort from knowing their daughter was in the most capable hands. Dr.DeCampli operated on Emma’s tiny heart, the size of her tiny fist, and implanted the shunt, the first step on Emma’s road to full recovery.
It had been over a week since Emma’s birth, when Cindy Hinds, nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, asked, “Do you want to hold her?” Surprised by the offer, Shannon responded in confusion, “We can?” And Cindy gently passed Emma to her mom. Shannon held her precious daughter for the first time. Finally, her arms held her tiny bundle and she cried tears of joy.
“We felt like everyone at Arnold Palmer Hospital were only looking after our child, like they didn’t have any other patients,” shared Shannon. “They were great with her and with us too.” One week after her surgery, Emma went home with her grateful parents.
Since college, Chuck and his fraternity have played in a golf tournament benefiting Arnold Palmer Hospital through Children’s Miracle Network. However, he never thought he played for the life of his own child.