In America, one in every eight babies is born premature, placing them at risk for serious health problems including chronic lung disease, deafness, blindness, and learning disability. The highly trained neonatal team at Magee-Womens Hospital cares for more than 1,800 premature and critically ill babies each year, ensuring the best possible outcomes for these tiny infants.
One of these tiny infants was Harper Protin. Samantha and Seth Protin were looking forward to their daughter’s arrival in February 2014, but early in January, Samantha came down with what first seemed like a cold. Then, she spiked a fever and took a violent turn for the worse.
Tests in the emergency department revealed that Samantha was in respiratory failure with bilateral pneumonia brought on by the H1N1 flu virus. Samantha was transferred to Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, where she was immediately intubated and put on a ventilator. Magee physicians recommended an immediate C-section to improve Samantha’s chance for survival, and reduce risk to her unborn child. On Jan. 10, 2014, weighing 5 pounds, 10 ounces, baby Harper made her early entrance into the world, but her mother’s life hung in the balance.
The Magee team called in Penny Sappington, MD, a critical care medicine specialist. Dr. Sappington readied her for transport to the Cardiac and Thoracic Intensive Care Unit at UPMC Presbyterian where Samantha was placed on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation therapy (ECMO). Over the next ten harrowing days, Seth slept little and rushed between UPMC Presbyterian and Magee to be with his wife and child.
“It was a nightmare, knowing how sick my wife was and that our new baby was in the NICU,” Seth says. “I was torn between being with my wife and being with our baby, but in my heart I knew that Samantha needed me more. Harper was healthy and I knew the Magee nurses and doctors would take wonderful care of her.”
Savor Pittsburgh, A Celebration of Cuisine, raises funds to help support Magee’s fight against prematurity. This year, Savor will be held on Thursday, Aug. 21 at Stage AE on the North Shore. Purchase tickets online at www.savorpgh.com.
Thanks to the exceptional care they received at Magee and UPMC Presbyterian, Samantha is well on her road to recovery and Harper is a happy, healthy baby. Just as importantly, Seth remembers the compassionate care he received, not as a patient but as a family member.
“Our doctor and four NICU nurses sat with me as I cradled Harper in my arms for the first time, reassuring me that I was doing the right thing,” Seth says. “Magee even arranged for Harper to stay in the NICU two extra days so that her release would coincide with Samantha’s. When we arrived at Magee, the nurses had Harper dressed and ready to go home. They were truly happy for us.”