Julie and Tommy O’Toole, of Des Peres enjoyed life with their 14-year-old son, Zach, but they hoped for one more baby. Julie got pregnant, but lost her sweet baby girl at 19 weeks. Devastated but determined to try again, she looked for an OB/GYN who specialized in high-risk pregnancy.
She interviewed several, including maternal fetal medicine specialist Michael Paul, MD, and nurse practitioner Melissa “Missy” Bradlo, WHNP-BC, at Missouri Baptist Medical Center.
“Ultimately, I appreciated the intelligence of Dr. Paul and Missy,” O’Toole says. “I chose them because they both had so much experience.”
When early ultrasounds showed some possible complications, O’Toole and her husband were uneasy.
“Many times, patients like Julie come to our practice because they’ve previously had difficult pregnancies,” says Bradlo. “In some cases, we see them almost weekly to help ease concerns and keep track of their progress.”
During an ultrasound at 20-weeks into the pregnancy, the staff suspected the baby had a cardiac defect. Before O’Toole had finished her appointment, the staff was already calling St. Louis Children’s Hospital to see how quickly they could get her an appointment. Within a matter of hours, O’Toole was headed to meet with Dr. Caroline Lee, MD, a Washington University pediatric cardiologist and director of the Fetal Heart Center at SLCH.
“I was completely confident sending Julie to this unit. They have the expertise to provide outstanding care for babies and the personal skills to educate and talk to parents,” says Bradlo.
After a fetal echocardiogram, Dr. Lee found the baby suffered from a significant cardiac defect, transposition of the great vessels. This defect occurs when two main arteries going out of the baby’s heart – the pulmonary artery and the aorta – are switched. When the baby is delivered, the condition can lead to a bluish-purple coloring of the skin and shortness of breath due to lack of oxygen in the blood. It requires surgery soon after delivery.
Because of the close working relationship and physical proximity of SLCH and Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Dr. Paul and Bradlo recommended that she deliver her baby at BJH so a team of pediatric specialists could also be present at the birth. Dr. Paul talked the O’Tooles through their options for delivery, and they decided that Angela Reining, MD, would attend the delivery because she was on staff at both BJH and MBMC.
O’Toole had already established a close relationship with Dr. Paul and Bradlo, so she continued to check in with them for the duration of her pregnancy.
“I was very impressed with the teamwork between specialists at all of the hospitals,” says O’Toole. “All of the physicians put ego aside, and I could tell they had my best interests at heart.”
The team planned the delivery for August 7th. During the delivery, a team of experts was on hand – including Dr. Lee, Dr. Reining, a neonatologist, NICU transport team and extra nurses – to ensure that mom and baby were safe.
“He was born into a room of 16 people, so I think that’s why he’s such a social, talkative baby!” O’Toole jokes.
Little P.J. was rushed away for testing and surgery, while his parents anxiously awaited good news. Bradlo visited the hospital to check in on mom and baby.
“Julie and Tommy were understandably nervous, but they seemed to take comfort in the fact that we (all of the specialists) created a plan together and executed it,” says Bradlo. “They knew what to expect.”
Thanks to the expertise of that team, baby PJ and mom were discharged about two weeks later.
Now, P.J. is 17 months old. O’Toole is thankful for a successful pregnancy and healthy baby.
“He has brought us so much joy,” she says. “We are all so in love with him.”
Photos below: PJ shortly after birth and now.
Photo credit to Julie O'Toole and Ashley Mansur Photography.
Learn more about Missy Bradlo, WHNP-BC, and her national recognition for patient satisfaction.