Harper Bartlett, ER patient, and her mom, Kerry

Kerry Bartlett with daughter, Harper - Carleton, MI

"I feel so indebted to those doctors and nurses for saving my baby's life."

A Mother's Intuition and ER Doctor Save Baby

It's every parent's worst nightmare: taking an ill child to the emergency room in the middle of the night.

Visiting from out of town, Kerry Bartlett and her two children were staying in a nearby hotel. Kerry had noticed a few days earlier that her son, age 2, was ill with a cold. Later the same day, her newborn daughter, Harper, started to cough a bit. She took her to the pediatrician, where she was tested for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. It takes about a week or two to recover but can be especially dangerous in children under the age of 1. It causes bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia in children younger than one.

The test for RSV was negative at the pediatrician's office, so Kerry was reassured that her daughter could travel a short distance. She was told to 'keep an eye on her.' Over the course of the weekend, Harper started to get congested. "On Monday she was lethargic and didn't want to eat anything. I looked at her nail beds because someone once told me that if they were blue then that could be a sign that someone isn't getting enough oxygen," said Kerry.

Kerry wanted to be on the safe side and took her to MyMichigan Medical Center Mt. Pleasant, which was just a few blocks from her hotel. "While I was checking her into the Emergency Room, I put her car seat down next to me to fill out paperwork. I happened to glance down and saw she wasn't breathing and had turned blue," Kerry said. "I yelled out, 'Help! my baby isn't breathing!'." At that point, the whole ER came alive, and the nurse rushed her back to the exam rooms. Erich Kickland, M.D., was the doctor on duty that night. "He did a tremendous job and got her breathing right away. I cannot even say how happy I was to know they got her breathing again."

Harper was transferred to Sparrow Hospital in Lansing and spent four days in the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit). The doctors there gave kudos to Dr. Kickland, who did not have to resort to intubating Harper (putting a tube down her airway to provide oxygen). "She was tested again for RSV, and it was initially negative but turned positive after two more days," Kerry said. The doctors put her on antibiotics just in case it was a bacterial infection.

Before the RSV results were known, Kerry said, "It was terrifying. I was all alone when they came to ask if they could do a spinal tap on my baby to look for meningitis. I remember when I had a Cesarean section and I got a spinal to make me numb. I ended up with a terrible headache afterward because the spinal fluid leaked out." Kerry was anxious that would happen to her child. "The staff was great at explaining that the procedure was different than what I had and reassured me it would be okay. They were great. I just can't say enough good things about those people."

Kerry was 2-3 hours from home, but it turned out to be a positive thing because the hospital in the city where Kerry lives is smaller and does not have all the advanced services that are available at MyMichigan Health. Call it mother's intuition, but Kerry believes that fateful decision to travel was meant to be. "Every time I talk about this, I can't help crying," she said. "I feel so indebted to those doctors and nurses for saving my baby's life. Even the security guard was amazing. He was trying to keep me calm, reassuring me that my baby was in great hands."

Later that month, Kerry returned to the hospital to thank the doctors and staff. "They were shocked that I came back to thank them but relieved that everything turned out so well. I really can't thank them enough. I even took them gifts. I think Dr. Kickland was the most surprised. They told me that people don't usually come back to thank them," said Kerry. "My daughter got better care there than we could have received locally near my house. I was even afraid to go home and not have those people around me. I couldn't sleep, either, always worried that something might happen." She went on to say, "There will always be a bond between my family and those doctors, nurses, and staff."

The 24/7 Emergency Department at MyMichigan Medical Center Mt. Pleasant is staffed by board-certified physicians and is fully equipped to provide care for all common emergency conditions. A telemedicine program enables patients to receive consultations from neurologists and other specialists at the University of Michigan for faster treatment. Learn more at mymichigan.org/mtpleasant.

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