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Giving back to support ‘beautiful’ care

Riley (right) with her big sister, Averey

Amy and Steve Valenzio’s first daughter was born five weeks early. So, when the couple found out they were expecting their second daughter, Riley, the pregnancy was considered high risk.

“At 32 weeks, I started going in for nonstress tests, which are used to monitor a baby’s well-being,” explained Amy, a team member at Advocate Charitable Foundation.

During one of the tests, Melissa Mayhugh, the maternal fetal medicine nurse, noticed Riley’s heartbeat was very fast.

“Her baseline rate was 140 beats per minute, but it kept jumping up to 280 beats per minute,” recalled Melissa. “I suspected supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), which is an abnormally fast heart rate.”

The pediatric cardiology team performed a fetal echocardiogram and confirmed Riley had SVT. It’s a condition that Melissa knows all too well.

“I remember seeing a tearful Amy and knowing exactly how she felt as a mom because my son has the same condition,” she said. “I hope that I was able to provide comfort to her in what I know was a difficult time.”

Amy was grateful for Melissa’s expertise – as both a nurse and a mother. “We call her Riley’s guardian angel. Without her, we might never have known it was happening.”

Amy was admitted to the Labor and Delivery unit at Advocate Christ Medical Center.

“Dr. Eleanor Ross, a pediatric cardiologist, thought Riley’s heart had an extra electrical pathway, which was causing SVT. She also had an irregular heartbeat.”

Amy was given medication to lower Riley’s heart rate and stayed in the hospital for four nights. The medication helped bring her daughter’s heart rate to a more normal level. Amy was sent home with a heart monitor to watch for signs of distress.

“The whole time we were in the hospital, there were so many teams checking in to see how Riley and I were doing. I always knew we were in the hands of very caring and compassionate experts,” she said.

‘They treated her just like I would’

Amy continued going in for regular nonstress tests, and in week 38, she was induced. “Being in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was all a little surreal. I had to get tested for COVID-19 and we had to wear masks, but the staff did a great job in bringing a sense of normalcy to the experience.”

Riley was born on April 15 without any complications, but she was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to monitor her heart rate. She stayed there for three nights.

“I can’t even describe how wonderful the nurses were,” shared Amy. “I would be sleeping, and I’d wake up and a nurse would be rocking her, singing to her or feeding her. They treated her just like I would. It was beautiful.”

Riley is now 4 months old, and Amy still checks her heart rate several times a day. If she goes into SVT again, it will mean a trip to the Emergency Department, but so far, she’s doing great.

“Around her first birthday, she’ll have some testing done to see if that extra electrical pathway is still there. Sometimes this condition can resolve itself,” explained Amy. “But if it doesn’t, she may need an ablation to restore a normal heart rate.”

Giving back

Each fall, Advocate Aurora Health holds its internal fundraising campaign, the Advocate Aurora Team Member Campaign. Amy is planning to make her gift to support pediatric cardiology because of her family’s experience.

“I’m so thankful and grateful to everyone who cared for us. I want to give back because there are so many other families going through similar situations, and I want to help make sure they have the resources to help them.”

How you can help

You can also support pediatric patients like Riley and make sure they and their families have the support and resources they need. Please consider making a donation today.