A Life-saving Pediatric Partnership: CJ’s Story

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Joshua and Elza Jenkins are both employees of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). As a security officer, Joshua has seen many dangerously ill children transported to CHOP. Elza, who works for the CHOP Foundation, is well aware of the hospital’s innovative and advanced pediatric care. Neither Joshua nor Elza ever expected to need emergency care for their own child, but when Constantine (“CJ”) was born with a life-threatening heart condition, CHOP was exactly where he needed to be.

CJ smiling “It was surreal to be on the other side,” says Joshua, describing the experience.

Elza’s pregnancy had been normal, with no complications or even morning sickness. Each sonogram had shown CJ had a fully developed heart, beating as it should. But when he was born on January 1, 2023, at the Lankenau Medical Center, his skin was very discolored, nearly purple.

“He was only on my chest for a minute,” says Elza, remembering how nurses had immediately swooped in with oxygen and transferred CJ to the hospital’s NICU.

“My heart hit the floor,” says Joshua. “I was expecting the worst.”

A critical collaboration

CJ in hospital In the Lankenau Medical Center NICU, CHOP’s board-certified neonatologists and certified neonatal advanced practice providers work alongside hospital physicians and clinical staff as part of an ongoing pediatric alliance with Main Line Health.

That night, Matthew Elias, MD, an attending cardiologist in CHOP’s Cardiac Center, was on call for Lankenau. Through remote consult, Dr. Elias ordered an echocardiogram, which identified a life-threatening heart disease — total anomalous pulmonary venous return (TAPVR). This defect can be missed during pregnancy, as it affects the pulmonary veins which can be difficult to see in prenatal screening tests. Symptoms may occur soon after birth, when more blood flows to the lungs and returns to the heart through these pulmonary veins.

Dr. Elias and the Lankenau team determined that CJ needed emergency transport to CHOP, where he would undergo open-heart surgery. “Delaying immediate care for CJ would have potentially worsened his outcome,” says Richard Ritterman, MD, Neonatal Medicine Specialist at Main Line Health. “This affiliation [between CHOP and Main Line Health] ensures patients receive world-class pediatric care right in the communities where they live.”

World-class care, close to home

CHOP’s Emergency Transport team arrived within an hour. “The team was super professional and comforting,” says Joshua. “They did an amazing job.”

Joshua raced to CHOP, where the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) nurses led him to a consult room to get some sleep — his first in nearly 22 hours. Elza was discharged from Lankenau the next morning and joined her family at CHOP.

Further testing confirmed CJ’s diagnosis, and surgery was scheduled with Jonathan Chen, MD, Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at CHOP. “It was a great experience,” says Joshua. “Dr. Chen told us exactly how the surgery was going to go, from start to finish.”

CJ sitting on couch CJ spent a total of 15 days in the hospital. The CICU nurses — including Sydney Henegan and Jessica Fuentes — took such great care of CJ that Joshua and Elza were able to go home at night to care for their dog and get some sleep. “We felt certain he would be OK,” says Elza.

Now 4 months, CJ is a healthy, happy baby. He receives regular follow-up care and frequent imaging with Dr. Elias in CHOP’s new Bryn Mawr Specialty Care Center, conveniently close to the family’s home. Says Joshua, “We’re fully a CHOP family now!”

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