Doctor’s harrowing trip by snowmobile to help a baby

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It takes more than a blizzard to keep Orly Levit, M.D., from her patients. The Yale neonatologist snowmobiled much of the way from her Bethany home to Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital to perform a highly technical procedure on a newborn who was having trouble breathing.

The morning after a record-breaking winter storm dumped about three feet of snow on Connecticut, Dr. Levit got a call from Yale’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) about a one-day-old boy in trouble. The tiny patient needed Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO), a procedure that infuses the blood with oxygen while removing carbon dioxide, much like a heart-lung machine does for patients undergoing cardiac surgery.

Dr. Levit said that she’d get to the hospital somehow. She recruited a family friend, Sam Lane, 17, to give her a ride on his snowmobile. Even that vehicle was challenged to make it through the depth of snow that blanketed the route to the hospital, but the pair persevered, sometimes stopping to dig out when the snowmobile stalled.

“There were moments when I said: OK, we’re going to crash into a tree,” recalls Dr. Levit. At five-foot-two, she was dwarfed by some of the snowdrifts they encountered.

“The real hero is this kid (Sam) and his family,” says Dr. Levit. “What a responsible adult he’s becoming.”

Annmarie Golioto, M.D., medical director of neonatology at Yale-New Haven Hospital’s Saint Raphael Campus, had stabilized the baby, and was willing to stay on to supervise ECMO. But Dr. Golioto had been working for 30 hours at that point. Matthew Bizzarro, M.D., medical director of the NICU, wanted to call in a better rested physician to take over supervision and provide the meticulous monitoring the baby still required.

All other physicians who were ECMO-trained were snowed in at home. Dr. Levit says there was a flurry of calls back and forth to see who could get into the hospital most easily. Dr. Levit maintains that if she couldn’t have made it in, another physician would have.

“I didn’t do anything,” she insisted again and again in a conversation about the incident.

Sam Lane got Dr. Levit to Route 63 in Bethany, where his father, Mike Lane, was waiting with a borrowed SUV to get the pediatrician the rest of the way to the hospital. Dr. Levit shook off the snow and got to work. “The baby is doing wonderfully,” says Dr. Levit. She emphasizes that the happy outcome is the result of work by an entire team. “The thing that is so important is what a family we are where I work,” she says. “I’m so happy and so proud to be part of this group of people.”

A more detailed account of Dr. Levit’s journey can be found in The New Haven Register.

This Article was submitted by Michael E Fitzsousa, on Wednesday, February 20, 2013.
Source: Yale Medical Group