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Baystate Doctors Save Infant From Cardiac Crisis

Seconds to spare. That’s how close Dr. Ahmed Elmogy believes that little Hunter Walker, who was four weeks old at the time, recently came to death.

Hunter’s parents, Jessica and William, say that their baby boy was not himself in the days leading up to his major cardiac incident on February 18.

“That night, he just looked really tired and drawn out and then when we laid him down and I woke him up he hadn’t eaten in about five hours so I fed him and he didn’t really want anything to do with it,” Jessica said. “Didn’t really notice anything then, other than he was sweating a lot so I thought he was warm and I changed his clothes and he went back to bed.”

Jessica’s motherly instincts prevented her from falling asleep, despite the fact that it was 3 am. She went to check on Hunter, and found his heart to be beating out of control. She alerted her husband, William.

“She said ‘his heart is beating really fast’ so I put my ear to his chest and it sounded like a hummingbird; I'd never heard a heart beating that fast before,” William recalled. “Then I was like ‘we should probably go to the ER.’”

Rush to the ED

William and Jessica arranged for a relative to watch their oldest child, and rushed Hunter to Baystate Wing Hospital in Palmer where Dr. Elmogy and his team were waiting.

"We gather the team," Elmogy said. "I had a great team that night"

Elmogy admits that his team, while skilled and prepared, were very concerned about the baby’s rapidly worsening condition. Hunter’s heart rate was 240 beats per minute, and rising. It peaked at 280 beats per minute, more than three times the normal heart rate.

“He was blue, just like laying there,” Jessica said. “That was definitely the scariest part.”

Several attempts to slow Hunter’s heart, using minimally invasive procedures, were unsuccessful. Hunter’s veins were too tiny to allow for a typical IV to begin circulating critical medication.

Dr. Elmogy had been consulting with pediatric experts at Baystate Children’s Hospital and knew something drastic had to be urgently done to save Hunter’s life. He chose to use an intraosseous infusion, a procedure in which a catheter was drilled into Hunter’s bone marrow, and medication directly entered his system. The room was silent as everyone, including Hunter’s parents, anxiously waited to see how Hunter fared.

"It feels like years for us," Elmogy said. "I tell you everybody was praying for that baby. With the grace of God, I guess, the medicine started to work."

A Night to Remember

Rapidly. Within minutes, Hunter’s heart rate slowed, and a medical helicopter was waiting to rush him to Baystate Children’s Hospital for further treatment. Dr. Elmogy says Hunter’s worsening heart rate likely would have killed him within seconds, had his team not intervened. Hunter was warmly received by a team of clinicians in the Sadowsky Family Pediatric Emergency Department at Baystate Children’s Hospital and was diagnosed with superventricular tachycardia.

“We call it ‘SVT.’ It’s a situation where the heartbeat is too fast and it gets stuck in a very fast rhythm and the heart beats so quickly it can’t push the blood around the body in an efficient way so the rest of the tissues in the body are starved for oxygen,” said 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 referred to a pediatric cardiologist at Baystate.

While he has had one setback since going home, Hunter is expected to make a full recovery. The entire ordeal is one Hunter will never remember, but his parents will never forget.

“Them handling it as quickly as they did, even though they were nervous, them keeping things under control and saving his life was huge,” Jessica said. “There’s no way we can ever thank them for that.”