From the beginning, Katie Herrmann faced incredible odds. She was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, an extra chromosome which disrupts development and can lead to death.
Born early at 2 pounds, 7 ounces in Pennsylvania, Katie’s prematurity and Trisomy 18-related medical complications threatened her life. Among the challenges: a hole in her heart that wasn’t closing called patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). Failure of this hole to close is common in premature infants like Katie, but many physicians cannot perform the PDA closure on babies that small.
“She was so tiny,” said Katie’s mom, Kelly Herrmann. “[Doctors in Pennsylvania] were reluctant to perform the procedure she needed. They told us to wait until she got bigger.” But would she? The Trisomy 18 prognosis is often grim.
Katie Herrmann lives in Reno, NV with her parents and brother, Jackson. The family chose UC Davis Children's Hospital for Katie's PDA closure.
The family struggled and so did Katie. She needed a tracheostomy so she could breathe. Respiratory therapists were called in. Katie’s care was becoming more complicated by the minute and all of this was taking place ahead of an impending move to Reno, Nev.
“We didn’t know where we were going to get care,” Herrmann said. “Reno did not have a catheterization lab. We could go to Las Vegas, Utah or California.”
Enter UC Davis Children’s Hospital. The Herrmanns heard about Frank Ing, chief of pediatric cardiology at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. A specialist in using less-invasive methods to treat heart and vascular conditions in children, Ing not only reassured the family he could perform the PDA, he shared that he could have performed the procedure when Katie was just two pounds.
“Dr. Ing told us Katie was a heavyweight compared to other babies he has performed PDAs for,” Katie’s father, Jeremy Herrmann said.
It was the promise of help for their daughter that they were looking for. Katie was transferred to UC Davis Children’s Hospital. The PDA closure was successfully performed by Ing using a coil, a method not explored by others they had spoken with.
“We love Dr. Ing. He is the best person we have dealt with. He was simply not going to take no for an answer and was determined to help Katie,” Jeremy Herrmann said. “I loved his attitude.”
The Herrmanns have since returned to Reno and will continue Katie’s care there. Their experience has encouraged them to not only advocate for their daughter, but for other preemie and Trisomy 18 parents as well.
“Had we known about Dr. Ing right after Katie was born, we would have done the surgery earlier and perhaps avoided some of the other complications we have faced since,” Kelly Herrmann said. “Trisomy 18 parents are often told their children will likely die. We want to pass on what we’ve learned so parents know what’s out there and do what’s best for their kids to save their lives.”
UC Davis Children's Hospital is the Sacramento region's only nationally ranked, comprehensive hospital providing care for infants, children, adolescents and young adults with primary, subspecialty and critical care. It includes the Central Valley's only pediatric emergency department and level I pediatric trauma center, which offers the highest level of care for its critically ill patients, as well as a level I children’s surgery center. The 129-bed children's hospital includes the state-of-the-art 49-bed neonatal and 24-bed pediatric intensive care and pediatric cardiac intensive care units. For more information, visit children.ucdavis.edu.