Unidentified heart condition leads to a harrowing start

The blonde-haired, blue-eyed 7-year-old was quiet as she walked through the hangar, taking in the gleaming green and gold aircraft with her family. It would be easy to mistake young Adelyn as shy, but then you notice her quick smile and the twinkle in her eye that suggests the energetic first-grader hiding just below the surface.

While their lives today are typical, filled with work and school, Adelyn’s parents still remember the first few frightening weeks of life for their first born. They had some concern when their healthy 5-day-old became jaundiced, but they were utterly unprepared to hear the pediatrician say, “something is really wrong with your baby.” Adelyn’s condition was so tenuous, the doctor’s office called an ambulance to take her across town to Northern Light EMMC where pediatric intensivists spent the next few hours trying the find the problem.

What they finally discovered was that Adelyn has a critical congenital birth defect known as coarctation of the aorta, a condition in which a portion of her aorta is too narrow to allow enough blood flow to the rest of her body. Her kidneys and liver were shutting down because they weren’t getting enough blood. She desperately needed surgery from specialists at Maine Medical Center in Portland. Because Adelyn was critically ill and would require advanced care during the trip, LifeFlight was called to fly her to Portland.

The flight crew, in partnership with the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) team at EMMC, used a special mobile incubator called an isolette for her transport. With the isolette, the crew could control Adelyn’s temperature and breathing, and provide the clinical support she needed during the flight. Surgeons at MMC were able to repair Adelyn’s aorta but it narrowed, or “coarced,” again when she was about 3 months old. Her specialists found it before it became an emergency and were able to perform a balloon angioplasty to stretch it out. Because it might coarc again, she sees her cardiologist regularly to monitor her condition.

But so far, so good. When she’s fully grown, Adelyn will have a stent placed to keep her aorta open.  In the meantime, Adelyn leads a normal life with no physical restrictions. She loves arts and crafts and looks forward to spending summer days at her grandparent’s lakeside cabin. She’s taken up fishing and is even happy baiting her own hook.

CommSpec Jonathan Roebuck
Pilot Joe Obremski
Medic Jon Tierney
NICU Nurse Tina Fife