With seconds to spare—that’s how close Dr. Ahmed Elmogy believes that little Hunter Walker came to death. Hunter was just four weeks old at the time.
Hunter’s parents, Jessica and William, say that their baby boy was not himself in the days leading up to his major heart incident.
“That night, he just looked really tired and drawn out. We laid him down and about five hours later, I woke him up since he hadn’t eaten. I fed him, but he didn’t really want anything to do with it,” Jessica says. “I didn’t really notice anything then, other than that he was sweating a lot, so I thought he was warm and I changed his clothes and he went back to sleep.”
But Jessica’s motherly instincts prevented her from falling asleep, despite the fact that it was 3 a.m. She went back to check on Hunter, and discovered his heart beating out of control. She called for her husband, William.
“I put my ear to his chest and his heart beat sounded like a hummingbird. I'd never heard a heart beating that fast before,” William recalls. “That’s when we decided we should probably go to the ER.”
EXPERT TEAM READY AT BAYSTATE WING HOSPITAL
William and Jessica arranged for a relative to watch their older child, and rushed Hunter to Baystate Wing Hospital in Palmer where Dr. Elmogy and his team were waiting.
“I had a great team that night,” says Dr. Elmogy. Even so, he admits that he and his skilled team were very concerned about the baby’s condition. Hunter’s heart rate was 240 beats per minute, and rising—compared to a normal range of 70 to 190. It peaked at 280 beats per minute.
“He was blue, just lying there,” Jessica recalls. “That was definitely the scariest part.”
The team made several attempts to slow Hunter’s heart using minimally invasive procedures. But they were unsuccessful. Hunter’s veins were too small to allow for a typical IV to begin circulating critical medication.
Dr. Elmogy was consulting with pediatric experts at Baystate Children’s Hospital and knew something drastic had to be done immediately in order to save Hunter’s life.
He opted for an intraosseous infusion, a procedure where a catheter (small tube) was drilled into Hunter’s bone marrow so that medication can enter directly into his system.
The room was silent as everyone, including Hunter’s parents, anxiously waited to see how Hunter would react.
"It felt like years for us," Elmogy says. "I tell you: everybody was praying for that baby. With the grace of God, I guess, the medicine started to work."
Within minutes, though, Hunter’s heart rate slowed. A medical helicopter was waiting to take him quickly to Baystate Children’s Hospital for further treatment.
SPECIALIZED PEDIATRIC CARE
Hunter was warmly received by a team of specialists in the Sadowsky Family Pediatric Emergency Department at Baystate Children’s Hospital, where he was diagnosed with superventricular tachycardia.
“We call it SVT. It’s a condition where the heart beats too fast. It gets stuck in a very fast rhythm. The heart beats so quickly, it can’t push the blood around the body effectively. So the rest of the tissues in the body become starved for oxygen,” explains Dr. Joeli Hettler, chief of the Pediatric Emergency Department at Baystate Children’s Hospital.
By all accounts, this baby boy is destined to grow into a brave young man. Hunter spent less than two days in Baystate’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, and was released after being connected to a pediatric cardiologist at Baystate.
Despite a few setbacks, Hunter is expected to make a full recovery. The entire ordeal is one Hunter will never remember, but his parents will never forget.
“Dr. Elmogy and his team handling everything as quickly as they did saved his life. Even though they were nervous, they kept things under control,” Jessica says. “There’s no way we can ever thank them for that.”