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Willow Mae Pate Celebrates First Birthday

Posted 9/1/20

McKENZIE (August 22) — Willow Mae Pate had a wonderful first birthday party at the Pillowville Country Store in Weakley County. The miracle baby was all smiles as family, friends and …

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Willow Mae Pate Celebrates First Birthday


McKENZIE (August 22) — Willow Mae Pate had a wonderful first birthday party at the Pillowville Country Store in Weakley County. The miracle baby was all smiles as family, friends and acquaintances greeted her and offered gifts during the drive-through event. Willow has surpassed early predictions of her health and is home enjoying the company of her parents, Joel and Amanda Pate, and older siblings.

Willow’s health and the COVID-19 pandemic did not stop the celebration of well-wishers for this child with a contagious smile.

Willow was a full-term baby who weighed 6 lbs 10 oz and appeared to be a healthy baby girl. On August 22, 2019, Willow failed a pulse oximeter screening, which is an accepted test of a law established in 2013 that is required before discharge from the hospital, which showed that her complete body was not receiving enough oxygenated blood. The pediatric medical team at Henry County Medical Center, partners with TriStar Centennial Hospital of Nashville, it was determined Willow needed to be transferred to the Nashville Hospital for further evaluation. On August 22, 2019, Willow was transported by TriStar Centennial NICU ambulance from Paris to Nashville. Upon arrival there an echocardiogram was immediately conducted which revealed Willow had a rare congenital heart disease condition known as interrupted aortic arch and VSD. The aorta has three sections known as ascending, arch and descending. In Willow’s condition, the ascending aorta was not connected to the descending aorta in the area between the two known as the arch. The diagnosis of VSD (ventricle septal defect) which is a hole between the lower ventricles of the heart was a more common diagnosis which often happens with other types of congenital heart disease. Willow had not shown any signs of this life-threatening defect due to the PDA (patent ductus arteriosus) valve remaining open after birth and supplying blood flow to the descending aorta, which typically 24 hours after birth the PDA valve is no longer needed and will naturally close.

While they were conducting the echocardiogram at TriStar Centennial Willow’s PDA valve closed which resulted in her losing blood supply to the lower part of her body. At that time Willow was placed on the ventilator and administered medicine which successfully reopened the PDA valve. All of this took place within only about one hour from arriving at Nashville. It was determined then that she would need to immediately be transferred to Monroe Carell Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Once Willow arrived at Vanderbilt by the Vanderbilt NICU ambulance, she was placed under NICU care to become stabilized for open-heart surgery. On August 27, 2019, Willow was stable enough to have open heart surgery to repair and build the aortic arch to connect the ascending aorta to the descending aorta. Initially, the VSD and aorta surgery was a success but immediately turned critical when one of the sutures used in the newly built section of the aortic arch ruptured and caused complications. After 13 hours of surgery on that day, Willow was unable to regain enough heart function on her own to sustain her body so the surgical team decided that leaving her chest incision open and placing her on an ECMO life support machine along with the ventilator was the only option.

Willow was then moved to the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at Vanderbilt after surgery. Willow underwent another surgery on the following day because of more complications from the suture rupture. Willow remained on the ECMO support until September 2, which required yet another surgery to disconnect the machine from her heart. On September 6, Willow underwent another surgical procedure to close her chest incision.

Willow remained on the ventilator support until September 10. From September 10 until September 17, Willow was able to sustain being off the ventilator support. On September 17, Willow had to be put back on the ventilator support due to a decrease in her heart function that was unable to be diagnosed with a specific cause. From that day until September 24, Willow continued to be in the PCICU with no known diagnosis of the depressed heart function. A heart catheterization test was determined to be the last chance of finding a diagnosis, although a high risk of damage to the rebuilt aorta, it was performed. From the heart catheterization test and x-ray images it was determined Willow had a narrowing of the aorta at the aortic valve on the heart and calcium deposits in the left ventricle muscle.

On October 5, Willow underwent another open heart surgery to expand the narrowing of the aorta and attempt any procedure to help the lower ventricle muscle with calcium deposits. The aorta surgery was successful but it was confirmed the calcium deposits were inside the muscle tissue and nothing could be done to help that diagnosis.

From that surgery, it was determined the calcium deposits in the left ventricle muscle were from trauma during the first surgery and likely to be a contributing factor in the depressed heart function. On October 7, Willow underwent another surgery to close her chest incision from the October 5 surgery. Willow has remained on the ventilator support from September 17 until now while remaining in the Vanderbilt PCICU.

Although all surgeries to date were necessary it was determined that only one treatment plan remained. On October 16, it was determined Willow was eligible for that treatment plan and she was placed on the waiting list for a donor heart transplant.

Willow’s health eventually improved and her doctors told the family Willow could leave the hospital with periodic returns for checkups.


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