Editor’s Note:  Tomorrow, March 30, is National Doctor’s Day.  In honor of this special occasion, we bring you a story from a grateful patient who experienced excellent care from our ED, cardiology, obstetrics, OR and internal medicine physicians and care teams.  Thanks to their skilled and compassionate care, ShawnnaLea and her beautiful daughter Amelia are happy and healthy today. 

ShawnnaLea and her adorable daughter Amelia.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010 was life-changing. I woke-up that morning and thought it was just going to be another day. I was 32 weeks pregnant with my first child (a girl!) and in a good mood. I even joked to my husband Shaun that I looked like a relative of the Great Pumpkin in the orange shirt I was wearing for a work event that night.

About 3:45pm I started getting Braxton-Hicks contractions. At the time I thought Amelia was moving around and trying to find a more comfortable spot. I made my way to the party store to pick-up balloons and then finally, to the pizzeria where I was hosting the event. Once everything was all set up I remembered my camera was in the car. I headed out to the car to grab it and when I went to head back inside I got really dizzy. I thought that I squatted down beside the car to brace myself but I’m not really sure…

The next thing I remember is that I was lying on something cold, but I didn’t know where I was or why there was a group of people gathered around me and talking loudly at me. Even more confusing, I couldn’t figure out why a fire truck was pulling in and the responders were approaching me. Very quickly I realized I was lying on the cold asphalt of the parking lot by my car outside the pizza place. I tried to get up and was pushed down by 10 or more hands. It was then that I realized my pants were wet and I wasn’t having abdominal pain. Unfortunately for all the nice men helping me, I started bawling and couldn’t form a sentence no matter how hard I tried.

When the ambulance showed up the firefighters and EMTs loaded me up and I was on my way. I was nervous that I still hadn’t felt Amelia move. Once I got through the ER, I was moved up to Labor & Delivery so Amelia and I could get checked out since the ER doctor wasn’t sure if my water had broken or not.  Up in L&D I met the most amazing nurse, Christie Allen, who was like an angel among tragedy for my husband and me.  She was knowledgeable, calm, funny and reassuring.  I still don’t know how we would have gotten through everything without her.  I was examined and had the fetal heart rate monitors strapped on. My water hadn’t broken and Amelia was looking good, but the OB doctors wanted to figure out what caused me to pass out. At that point they did an EKG on me. The results came back abnormal so it was decided I would be transferred down to the cardiology floor for overnight monitoring. Down there I was blessed with another amazing nurse, Rob.

The next morning I was hoping to go home. That’s when I learned not only had my EKG been abnormal the night before – my heart rate overnight had been abnormal too. The doctors wanted to run a few more tests, but they were pretty sure I had the same fatal heart condition my dad has – Long QT Syndrome.  It’s hereditary and not only does my dad have it, but his mom too. The doctors told me it would require getting a defibrillator put in my chest the next morning.

We freaked. What did this mean for Amelia? How would this affect my delivery? What risks were involved to me and AJ during the surgery? I was only 31, could this be happening?  The list went on and on. Luckily, I had AMAZING doctors.  The cardiology team, yes team, included Dr. Mark Capeless, Dr. Robert Lobel, Elizabeth Carney, A.P.R.N. and several others.  One of my OB doctors, Dr. Jane (Jennie) Lowell, came in and spent lots of time with us and talking to my cardiology team, the anesthesiologists and the internal medicine doctor. She approved everything they were going to do for the surgery – from how pain would be managed during the procedure, medicine after the procedure and several other things. It was reassuring to have the doctors working together and all of them taking the time to make sure Shaun and I had all our questions answered and feeling comfortable.

My surgery was Thursday morning and it went well.  I was awake for it and still remember how comforting Dr. Lobel was when I started freaking out mid-surgery just because I got overwhelmed.  Amelia was a champ and seemed to have no issues with the surgery. She was bouncing all around and had a strong heartbeat.

We were blessed several weeks later with Amelia’s arrival.  Due to preeclampsia I was induced.  I couldn’t have Pitocin because of my heart so I ended up with an emergency C-section.  Once again I had a team of doctors and nurses involved from cardiologists, OBs, a pediatrician, anesthesiologists, etc. – talk about a full OR!

I continue to see Dr. Capeless and Amelia’s pediatrician, Dr. Paul Costello, works with us continually to keep an eye on Amelia since we don’t know yet if she has Long QT Syndrome.  It is because of these amazing providers that I am healthy and have a beautiful toddler who keeps me on my toes.  To each of them, those named above and countless others (including Dr. Julie Wade; Dr. Amy Thibault; Dr. Julia Brock; Kristen Werner, APRN; Dr. Diane Haddock and nurse Deb Amero) I cannot thank you enough for all the support and time you showed to me, my husband and Amelia.  I feel safe in your hands and am grateful for all you do.

ShawnnaLea Zemanek is a grateful patient of the UVM Medical Center. 

Do you have a physician you would like to recognize?  Share your story below in the comments, on our Facebook page, or visit our Doctor’s Day page to make a donation in his or her honor. 

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