Days-old infant saved by ten years of critical care medicine


Twenty-one weeks into her pregnancy, Sarah Platnar of Pickering, Ontario found out that her developing fetus had a Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia. Muscle tissue on the left side of the developing diaphragm was not meshing together, which allowed the liver, stomach and intestines to push up into the chest cavity and inhibit the development of the lungs. That routine ultrasound changed the lives of the Platnar family.

Born at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital September 6, 2005, Isabelle Platnar was placed immediately into incubation and ventilated so that her underdeveloped lungs would not fail. Barely four hours old and stabilized, she was rushed to the Critical Care Unit at the Hospital for Sick Children. Upon arrival, Isabelle’s long road to recovery began.

Two days after being born, Isabelle’s condition became stable enough to allow Dr. Ted Gerstle to perform surgery that gently repositioned the tiny internal organs into their proper place and patched the hole in the diaphragm using tissue from a pig intestine.

Hours after surgery Dr. Brian Kavanagh – Staff Physician & Director of Research, Department of Critical Care Medicine at the Hospital for Sick Children – took over Isabelle’s case.

Dr. Kavanagh faced the young child’s parents with the news that Isabelle’s breathing was very weak and that he and his team of critical care staff were doing everything they could to help stabilize her condition.

“It was amazing how the team of critical care doctors and nurses were working day and night to find out exactly what was going wrong and how to treat the problem,” said Isabelle’s mother Sarah. “They continuously tried different medicines and techniques until Isabelle’s condition finally stabilized two and a half weeks after surgery.”

In addition to her respiratory problems, Isabelle is afflicted with pulmonary hypertension, acid reflux and has a thinning of the arch in the aorta. All of these conditions are currently being treated successfully through medication. Isabelle also needed a feeding tube until she was able to take food orally.

“The doctors were amazed at how well she was doing despite her issues,” said Sarah. After three weeks in the critical care unit and one month in the respiratory medicine unit, we were able to take our little miracle home.”

The Platnars can’t say enough about how critical care medicine saved Isabelle’s life. They believe, and Dr. Kavanagh can attest to the fact that Isabelle would not be home today without the years of research that has lead to great advancements in critical care medicine.

“When you are critically ill, you are in the greatest danger and you want to make sure that you are treated by the best and most committed people,” said Kavanagh. “The best way to achieve that goal is ongoing education in hospitals and through medical conferences such as the annual Toronto Critical Care Medicine Symposium.”

The Toronto Critical Care Medicine Symposium is the largest meeting of its kind in Canada, attracting critical care doctors and nurses from across Canada who learn and discuss issues such as brain injuries, cardiopulminary resuscitation, sepsis, controversies in resuscitation, end of life care, technological innovations and Canadian medical research.

“The key issue in Isabelle’s case was having a thorough understanding of how the lung develops and how life support systems affect the lungs,” said Kavanagh. “Someone in Isabelle’s condition would not have survived 10 years ago.

Today’s life support is much gentler and therefore more effective. Ongoing research will continue the advancement of critical care medicine and save more little lives in the future.”

The 2006 Toronto Critical Care Medicine Symposium will take place October 24 – 27, 2006 at the Metro Convention Centre in downtown Toronto. Renowned for its excellent international faculty, the Symposium provides the most up-to-date information on current issues and research in critical care. An estimated 1,000 delegates will attend the 2006 event.