Mothers all around the world are looking forward to holding their newborn babies in their arms for the first time.
But a mom in North Carolina has finally held her infant son for the first time – nearly four months after undergoing life-saving surgery.
Back in February, Danielle Gaither from Monroe in Charlotte, was rushed to the emergency room after complaining of severe chest pains.
She was 39 weeks pregnant and doctors soon discovered she was suffering from an aortic dissection.
The main artery pumping blood into Danielle’s her heart tore, cutting off the supply to her organs and to her unborn child.
Doctors had a huge task on their hands to save both mom and baby.
They made the unconventional decision to perform two operations at once on a fragile Danielle: open heart surgery and a cesarean section.
The entire operation took six hours with nearly 20 doctors assisting.
After a such a heavy duty operation, Danielle spent 111 days in a specialized recovery unit. She could not meet her baby son, named KV, until she was stable.
But on June 16, doctors finally gave the new mom the green light. Danielle wept as four-month-old KV was gently lifted into her weak arms.
What makes Danielle’s story even more incredible is that Dr Jeko Madjarov, the lead cardiothoracic surgeon on her case, said she had less than a one percent chance of surviving.
‘Danielle’s body was shutting down, and we knew we had to work together to save two lives. The gold standard of treating aortic dissection is circulatory arrest, which is a surgical technique that stops blood circulation,’ Dr Madjarov told Daily Mail Online.
‘But Danielle’s son needed blood flow in order to survive. The only way to save Danielle and her son was to perform open-heart surgery and deliver Danielle’s son essentially at the same time.
‘These surgeries are conventionally performed separately, but we knew there wasn’t enough time. We were also confident that we were going to be successful. So, four teams worked together to save two lives.’
‘What amazes me is how our teams worked so well together,’ said Dr Joseph T McGinn, who oversaw the heart surgery that day.
Danielle’s son, named KV after his father, was born premature.
He had to spend a few days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to recover from the lack of oxygen.
Thankfully, he is a healthy baby and living at home with family members while Danielle continues to regain strength in hospital.
Danielle was born with Marfan syndrome. This is a connective tissue disorder that can cause serious heart problems. Danielle’s sister also has the same disease.
Danielle is already a mom-of-four got pregnant, and was well aware of the risks involved with her pregnancy.
Her OBGYN, Dr Heather Bane, said had Danielle not lived so close to the hospital, the story could have a very different ending.
One of the features of Marfan syndrome is an enlarged aorta. This can cause life threatening symptoms, like in Danielle’s case.
People with Marfan syndrome are at up to 250 times greater risk of aortic dissection than the general population, according to the Marfan Foundation.
‘She will get very aggressive rehabilitation and occupational therapy and so on to get her back to normal and to 100 percent. There is nothing that is going to block her from getting to 100 percent at this point,’ Dr McGinn said.
Dr McGinn also explained why Danielle couldn’t meet her baby sooner.
‘Babies are also more susceptible to infections and they receive routine vaccinations at the two and fourth month marks. Our care team recommended that it was safest for the mother’s and baby’s health and well-being to limit exposure.’
‘It wasn’t until June that Danielle regained enough strength in her arms to be able to hold her son. We wanted to ensure Danielle had ample time to recover before reuniting her with KV,’ Dr Madjarov continued.
In a video provided by Carolinas HealthCare System, she looks lovingly into KV’s eyes as she is able to hold him for the first time.
‘I’m glad that I’m here and I thank Dr Madjarov and the team, along with God, for saving my life,’ she said.