While pregnant with her second child in 2011, medical staff at Vanessa Erb’s local hospital in New Brunswick detected an abnormality with her baby’s heart during a routine ultrasound. To determine the cause, Vanessa’s care team sent her to the IWK for further testing and advanced care.
After undergoing tests, doctors discovered that Vanessa’s baby, Bailey, had four different heart defects. This unexpected news was shocking, and it was a very stressful, emotional and uncertain time for Vanessa and her husband, Darren.
“There was fear of the unknown,” Vanessa shares. “Will she make it? Will I be able to get through the possibility of losing my baby? If she does make it, will she have a quality of life?” she explains.
As her December due date approached, Vanessa was admitted to the IWK in late November. Because of Bailey’s heart defects, Vanessa had to be closely monitored and close to the specialized care that Bailey would likely need after her birth. Bailey was born just over a week early and was immediately taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for urgent care and testing.
At just 10 days old, Bailey had her first open-heart surgery to try and repair her heart.
Because of the seriousness of Bailey’s heart defects and open-heart surgery, risks and complications following this type of surgery are expected. Bailey had some difficulties, including breathing and vocal cord issues. She also experienced blue spells, which occur when a child’s lungs are not receiving enough blood to carry oxygen to the rest of the body. When this happened, Bailey’s skin appeared blue.
Vanessa and Bailey were at the IWK for 73 days before they could finally go home in February 2012. Unfortunately, their time at home as a family wouldn’t last long.
In March 2012, Bailey wasn’t eating or feeling well and had complications from the blue spells. Vanessa brought her to their family doctor, who contacted the IWK. They decided that Vanessa and Bailey should be transported to the IWK by ambulance that day.
At the IWK, Bailey underwent tests and, soon after, a second open-heart surgery at four months old to correct an aneurysm, which is a bulging, weakened area in the blood vessel wall.
Thankfully, the surgery was successful. Bailey’s health greatly improved, and she and Vanessa returned home the following month.
Bailey was doing well for many years, but unfortunately, more complications arose during the summer of 2021. Bailey had a heart cath—a minimally invasive procedure that can diagnose and treat heart problems—and she developed a tear in her heart repair. She was bleeding, but her highly skilled medical team at the IWK quickly closed the tear. Bailey spent a few days in the IWK before returning home.
Bailey, who turns 11 in December 2022, is doing well and has no limitations or restrictions preventing her from doing things she enjoys, such as competitive dancing. Bailey will need another open-heart surgery when she’s older to replace a device that helps her heart function, but she is expected to carry on doing the things she enjoys.
For Vanessa, the experience has made her very grateful for the IWK. “They take care of not only your children but also their families,” says Vanessa. “I can gladly say I’m grateful that they’re here.”