Twenty weeks into her first pregnancy, Lara and Alfonso Olaiz of Durham were excited to learn the gender of their new baby. Their anticipation quickly turned to worry on the day of the ultrasound.
“The sonographer hesitated during the test, so we knew something was wrong,” says Lara. “When she left the room, we froze. Then we started to pray.”
They soon discovered their baby girl’s heart wasn’t developing properly.
“Our practice works closely with Duke so we immediately transferred Lara’s care to their maternal-fetal medicine specialists, explains Tanya Moore, FNP, the Olaiz’s obstetric care provider at Duke Women’s Health Associates. Maternal-fetal medicine specialists are specially trained to work closely with pregnant women when the mom-to-be or the unborn baby has a medical condition that may put the woman and the pregnancy at high risk for complications. “The transfer of care ensured she would have access to specialty care and additional resources as soon as possible.”
Testing confirmed the baby had a congenital heart condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). The left pumping chamber of her heart was not fully developed. The baby would need surgery immediately after delivery.
“HLHS is fatal within the first two to three weeks of life if not treated,” says Robert Jaquiss, MD, a pediatric heart surgeon at Duke. “Fortunately, advances in echocardiography now allow us to diagnose the condition in utero, so we know what’s coming and we can prepare kids for an operation when they are healthy. Today, survival rates are between 85 and 90 percent.”
Lara met with Dr. Jaquiss during her pregnancy to discuss the surgery. “He was knowledgeable and explained in detail all we needed to know. He was also down to earth and really interested in families and excited about babies’ development and growth.”