A young Vancouver Island woman is celebrating a special Mother’s Day this year.
So are several medical teams at St. Paul’s who saved the life of Brittany Forrest and her unborn child.
The 26-year-old Courtenay woman’s saga began in March when her otherwise normal pregnancy began to go wrong. Brittany felt “gross” and was experiencing fatigue and shoulder pain. She went to her doctor, then the local emergency department. Doctors said it could be a flu or pregnancy-related discomfort.
But the symptoms didn’t stop. Brittany kept returning to the ER. During one visit she stopped breathing, a symptom of heart failure. Now seven months pregnant, Brittany was airlifted to the provincial Heart Centre at St. Paul’s where she was admitted to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. Brittany was now showing signs of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle.
Multiple teams at St. Paul’s came together—the cardiac obstetrics team, the maternal fetal medicine team, anesthesia, obstetrics—while heart transplant/heart failure expert Dr. Mustafa Toma was on standby in case a mechanical device would be needed to help Brittany’s heart beat.
Brittany’s condition stabilized but she was extremely unwell. Her care team was hoping for the best—but planning for the worst.
Suddenly, at 3 am on April 12, Brittany went into cardiac arrest.
Brittany’s care teams raced to the hospital in the middle of the night. They started CPR, performed an emergency C-section that took just seven minutes, and moved Brittany to an operating room where she was placed on a life-support machine called ECMO. (ECMO stands for Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation and performs the work of the heart.) At one point, some 25 clinicians and specialists worked to save the lives of mother and child.
Their efforts were successful. Baby Jaxon, nicknamed “Champ” before the family settled on his name, was born at 3:25 am on April 12, two months early, 25 minutes after his mom had gone into cardiac arrest, and weighing just three pounds, 11 ounces.
Brittany has been discharged from St. Paul’s and is staying in Vancouver until baby Jaxon is well enough to go home and join his other siblings. He is doing well.
Dr. Elisabet Joa, who performed the C-section, says she has not seen such a dramatic case in her 15 years as an obstetrician/gynecologist.
“It was highly emotional,” says Dr. Joa, who credits the skill of her peers and colleagues and technology like the ECMO machine.
Brittany calls Jaxon her miracle baby. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have gotten medical help and found out about my heart condition.” She calls her healthcare team at St. Paul’s “miracle workers” for giving baby Jaxon a chance at life— and her, a second chance.
“We are profoundly grateful.”
Friends of St. Paul’s Foundation have reason to be moved by the story of Brittany and baby Jaxon. The ECMO machine that played such a critical role in this story was purchased entirely with donations from generous and caring friends of St. Paul’s. To continue this tradition of giving, and to keep helping patients like Brittany in profound ways, make your gift today.