A Mother’s Intuition

An expectant mom’s instincts guide her to choose The Children’s Hospital to deliver her baby.

When Dezeray Aguilar was pregnant with her first baby, her intuition kicked in well before she gave birth. 

Both excited and shocked that she was pregnant, Dezeray had a rocky first trimester.

“I was always bleeding and worried that I was having a miscarriage,” said Dezeray. “I also had horrible morning sickness and lost 30 pounds.”

Dezeray worked as a full-time manager at H-E-B and had to take a step back due to how she was feeling during pregnancy. “They were so supportive,” explains Dezaray. “They just said to let them know what I needed and that I could return when I felt better.”

After getting over those initial three months, her pregnancy became a little easier, and she reclaimed some of her lost energy. She was excited about the arrival of her new baby boy.

Around 20 weeks, she had her routine anatomy scan, and everything was progressing along well. By all indications, Dezeray was going to deliver a healthy baby.

Even though she didn’t anticipate Freddie needing the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) services of The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, she decided it was best to deliver there just in case.

“My mom delivered there and my sister was in the NICU. I had told myself that I wanted to deliver there, too, just in case anything went wrong,” said Dezaray.

In hindsight, it was the best decision she ever made.

On June 29, at about 39 weeks, Dezeray delivered Freddie. In labor for only five hours and with her mom by her side, she was happy to be having an uneventful delivery, especially after a somewhat bumpy start. She was so grateful for Dr. Mallory Thompson, her obstetrician from The Women’s Center at Westover Hills. Dr. Thompson had monitored Dezeray’s pregnancy closely and helped get Freddie here safely.

Freddie seemed to be doing great. He was eating, and all his routine newborn tests were normal. It was when they came in to take his newborn photos, Dezeray noticed something that did not seem quite right: his feet were what she described as “purplish.”

The nurses assured her there was nothing wrong and that in a newborn, hands and feet are usually the last to become pink. Dezeray breathed a sigh of relief, but not for long.

“I thought Freddie looked dark when they were taking his photos and kept asking the nurses about it,” said Dezeray. “They took some readings of his oxygen levels, and they came back in the 70s and 80s – really low. They thought it was the machine, but to be safe, they took some more readings.”

The next thing Dezeray knew, Freddie was in the NICU, under the care of Dr. Sowmya Mohan and Dr. Maria Pierce who were telling her that he had a heart condition – something that went undetected in his anatomy scan before he was born.

It turned out Freddie had a rare congenital heart defect known as double outlet right ventricle atresia (DORV). In this condition, the heart’s two major arteries – the pulmonary artery and the aorta – connect to the right ventricle. In a normal heart, the pulmonary artery connects to the right ventricle, and the aorta connects to the left ventricle. In DORV the heart carries oxygen-poor blood to the rest of the body.

Dezaray recalled the reasons she chose to deliver at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. She was grateful she followed her instincts and made the decision to deliver Freddie at a place that had a dedicated team of experts familiar with these types of heart conditions plus a Level IV NICU that would take care of Freddie leading up to and after the surgery.

Dezeray met with several cardiologists from the Heart Care team including Dr. Jesse Lee and Dr. Daniel Nento. They explained how they would place a stent in Freddie’s heart to facilitate oxygenated blood circulating in his body, giving him a chance to go home and grow bigger prior to open-heart surgery.

On July 6, the cardiovascular surgical team at The Children’s Hospital performed the stent procedure, and everything went well.

“It was very scary at first, and I didn’t know what to expect,” said Dezeray. “But, Dr. Lee and his colleagues did a great job and kept me updated throughout the entire procedure.”

A few days later, Freddie was discharged and has been home ever since. He was sent home with a pulse ox monitor and Dezeray must do daily weight check-ins and send them to the cardiologist. Freddie takes three medications and Dezeray checks in with his cardiologist every two weeks.

Dezeray took Freddie home after the Heart Care team placed a stent in his heart to help with blood circulation. He’ll return for open heart surgery after he grows bigger.

“Right now, Dr. Lee says that Freddie’s stent is working well, so they are hopeful they can push his open-heart surgery out a bit longer, so he has the best possible outcome,” said Dezeray. “And after he does have his surgery, he’s expected to live a normal life and be a normal kid.”

For now, Dezeray is enjoying life as Freddie’s mom and is grateful for not only her foresight to deliver him at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio which is well-versed in complex conditions but also for the fantastic team that cared for him.

“They have been accommodating and informative. The team never made me feel like my questions were dumb. They were supportive with everything. They really showed compassion for my son and didn’t just treat us like another patient. They really cared for them. All the staff and everyone was just phenomenal,” she said.

Visit this link to learn more about the Heart Care program at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.

Grateful, thankful, blessed: Newborn overcomes the odds

Karina Gonzalez and her husband, Isaac, were excited about the prospect of having a third child to round out their family. Never in their wildest dreams did they imagine having twins.

“I was by myself at the doctor’s office because of COVID and had to FaceTime Isaac to tell him the news. We were definitely in a bit of shock. Having twins runs in my mom’s family, but I never thought it would happen to me,” said Karina.

Karina’s pregnancy was uneventful – something she was grateful for, especially after experiencing a miscarriage and a difficult pregnancy with her last child. She and her husband grew more excited when they learned they were having both a boy and a girl: Isaiah and Ilani.

At about 31 weeks, the week of her baby shower, Karina went to the doctor to see how the babies were progressing. They did the anatomy scan and measured both the babies, and everything seemed fine. Once again, she had to go alone because of the pandemic.

It was when the ultrasound tech was checking Ilani that Karina grew concerned.

“The tech was taking a little bit longer than usual, and I wondered if she had detected an issue with Ilani’s heart,” said Karina. “I knew that the tech wouldn’t be able to tell me anything, so I didn’t ask but had a sinking feeling that something was wrong.”

Karina’s regular doctor was not available, so she spoke to Dr. Javier Castillo, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist by phone. He explained to Karina that it was not Ilani’s heart they were concerned about; it was her stomach and intestines.

Upon reviewing Ilani’s ultrasound, it was determined that her stomach and intestines were up in her chest cavity, a condition known as congenital diaphragmatic hernia or CDH.

The doctor told her not to Google “CDH” and just wait to visit with him in person to get all her questions answered.

This time, Isaac was able to go along with Karina for her appointment. They did another ultrasound and confirmed that Ilani did in fact have left-sided CDH.

“There was a hole in her diaphragm, and her organs were moving up into her chest cavity, which in itself was scary to hear,” said Karina. “But the bigger issue was that they couldn’t tell whether or not her lung was developing correctly because her intestines and other organs were being pushed up, and they couldn’t see it.”

Dr. Castillo explained why the CDH could have been easily missed on the ultrasound. He also described a procedure they could do while she was pregnant where they would insert a needle into Karina’s belly button. From there, they would put a balloon inside of Ilani that would inflate and push the organs back down. Unfortunately, Karina was too far along in her pregnancy for them to perform this procedure.

Karina recalls how she felt in those moments: frightened and anxious. She ended up canceling her baby shower after learning there was a 50/50 chance that Ilani would be stillborn.

After learning about Ilani’s CDH, Dr. Castillo sent Karina to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio to meet with Dr. John Doski, a pediatric surgeon, who would operate on Ilani after she was born. They also planned for Karina to deliver the twins there.

Dr. John Doski, a pediatric surgeon, met with the family before Ilani was born to explain the type of surgery he would perform to fix Ilani’s congenital diaphragmatic hernia or CDH.

“After speaking with Dr. Doski, I knew my baby would be in good hands,” said Karina. “He explained that they had all of the equipment they needed to perform the surgery successfully. If she needed a heart and lung machine, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), they would have it available.”

Three weeks later, when she was 37 weeks along, on June 21, Dr. Kimberly Crittenden, an OB-GYN at The Children’s Hospital, delivered Karina’s twins.

“Delivery day was super stressful. It was terrifying because, for so long, your babies are safe inside you. And then all of a sudden, they aren’t anymore, and they are out in the world,” said Karina.

As soon as Ilani was born, Dr. Sowmya Mohan, the neonatologist at Ilani’s delivery, intubated her right away in the delivery room and then took her to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to begin monitoring her. In the meantime, Isaiah was doing well and didn’t have any issues– a blessing for Karina and Isaac.

“The first couple of weeks were really hard because when we went up to go see her, she was intubated and sedated and had tubes and all sorts of things on her,” remembers Karina.  “I was glad that she was alive because they told me this is a very serious condition and my biggest fear was that she wouldn’t even make it after birth, but she did and she was good … and I was so grateful!”

It was tough for Isaac and Karina to see their baby daughter connected to so many wires and tubes as she recovered from abdominal surgery.

The nurses monitored her closely and helped her get strong enough for surgery. When she was four days old on June 25, Ilani was strong enough to have surgery. The entire time the doctors and nurses kept Karina and Isaac updated, letting them know what was happening. The surgery was a success, and Ilani did well.

Ilani recovered from surgery and was almost ready to go home in this photo shared by the family.

Doctors told Karina and her family that Ilani can lead a normal life. She may need some occupational and physical therapy to help her with her development, but besides that, her doctors don’t foresee any long-term effects. Some children born with CDH develop heart defects or asthma, but Ilani is doing great.

When Karina reflects on the entire experience, she said without a doubt the uncertainty of everything was the worst part.

“You don’t hear about babies overcoming CDH and being okay, especially in light of how well Ilani has done,” said Karina. “Every time we would go see her in the NICU, the nurses would say how well she has done and that most babies born with the same condition took longer to recover. We are immensely thankful.”

Isaac and Karina prepared to take their baby girl home from the hospital after a successful surgery corrected a condition known as CDH.

Karina and her family are also grateful to the team at The Children’s Hospital, including the surgeon. 

“The fact that Dr. Doski would meet with us and explain things in terms we understood was so comforting. His constant reassurance that our baby girl was in good hands meant the world to us,” said Karina. “I don’t know if there would be enough words to thank him. We are just so grateful and thankful to him for saving our baby.”

After spending 44 days in the NICU, Ilani was strong enough to go home. Her older sisters, age 12 and 4,and her twin brother, Isaiah, are happy she is finally home. Since coming home, she has done well with her feedings and recovery.

Big sisters and twin brother Isaiah welcomed Ilani home after spending 44 days in the NICU at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.

“We are definitely happy to be home, but I miss the nurses and staff who I became close to while we were in the NICU. I want to make sure I thank the amazing team of NICU nurses and doctors, specifically our NICU nurse, Melissa who was Ilani’s very first nurse and someone who was such a blessing to us and someone we will never forget. I also want to thank Dr. Doski, Dr. Mohan and Dr. (Maria) Pierce who are not only amazing doctors but are amazing and compassionate people,” said Karina. “This journey has been extremely hard, but I really feel like we’ve been blessed with all the nurses, surgeons, the doctors, everybody. Everybody has been so wonderful and with such a stressful situation we couldn’t have asked for a better group of doctors and nurses. And I can’t say that enough.”

Let’s hear it from our kids

San Antonio teens told us why they got the COVID-19 vaccine.

Across the country, parents and students are gearing up for a new school year. Along with conversations about school supplies and schedules, families are talking about the COVID-19 vaccine in preparation for returning to in-person school full time. The 2021-2022 school year is the third school year affected by COVID-19.

Compared to adults, fewer children have been infected with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. However, across the U.S., we have seen a rise in the number of children diagnosed with COVID and hospitalized as a result. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone age 12 and older get a COVID-19 vaccination. Currently, only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for children aged 12 to 17. It’s given in two doses, 21 days apart.

To encourage more vaccinations among local kids, we asked some friends to share why they decided to get the COVID jab. 

“I decided to get the vaccine because I felt like it was my best protection against this dangerous virus. I wanted to have a life with friends, sleepovers, and school, so I knew I needed to do my part to stay healthy, and getting the vaccine is a step towards that. I also know too many people that have suffered from COVID or lost loved ones and I felt like the vaccine was created so that we can have fewer people suffering and dying from COVID.” – Izabella, 14

“I wanted a life with friends, sleepovers, and school.” – Izabella, 14

“I decided to get vaccinated because I know people that got sick with COVID and I wanted nothing to do with that. It could cause long-term health problems and keep me from playing soccer, climbing, doing theater and spending time with friends and family. I wanted to know that I could do all of those things more safely. I also wanted to see my grandparents and my cousin who is immunocompromised without fear that giving them COVID could cause them to be hospitalized or worse. I don’t know what I would do if I gave it to someone else. My little sister can’t get vaccinated so we’re still being very careful, but I’m loving being back in the climbing gym even if I have to wear a mask!” – Rowan, 12

“I wanted to practice sports, I wrestle which is a really close contact sport and I wanted to not be worried about it. I was the last person in my family to get vaccinated and I was so happy when they finally approved the 12-15 year olds. I wanted to do my part to help stop the spread of COVID so life could go back to normal.” -Connor, 15

“I wanted to practice sports.” – Connor, 15

“I just moved to a new state and getting vaccinated allowed me to go to summer camps.” Andrew, 13

“Getting vaccinated allowed me to go to summer camp.” – Andrew, 13

“I want to travel internationally. I was asked to present my vaccine information to travel to Mexico and the Bahamas.” Victor, 17

“I wanted to make sure I was keeping myself and others safe by not contributing to the spread. It is important for me because when I go to dance competitions and practices, I don’t always have my mask on. I just really wanted to be safe with everything I am doing.” – Maya, 12

“I wanted to make sure I was keeping myself and others safe.” – Maya, 12

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on everyone’s physical, emotional and mental health, especially for children. As we embark on the back-to-school season, amid another surge of COVID-19, let’s hear it from our kids and take the important steps to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio offers the Pfizer vaccine free of charge to members of our community who are 12 and older. Sign up for an appointment at this link. Once arriving at this link, select specialty: COVID-19 Vaccination. Under COVID-19 Visit Type, select Onsite Pfizer Vaccination Dose 1. Then click on the blue bar with SEARCH in the middle to find available appointments. We provide COVID vaccines in the Goldsbury Center for Children & Families located at 333 North Santa Rosa St., first floor, San Antonio, Texas 78207.  

Walk-ins are welcome on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Experienced personnel provide the vaccines and emergency attention is nearby in case of any immediate allergic reaction. If you have questions or concerns, please talk to your pediatrician or family practice physician about the vaccine.