June 11, 2021

Newborn triplet receives lifesaving prenatal diagnosis and surgery

Madison, Wisconsin — Planning for the birth of a child can be exciting, but learning that one of your unborn triplets has a life-threatening heart defect can quickly turn that excitement into fear.

That’s what happened to Brooks and Katie Rademacher. They not only had to dramatically reimagine what their family’s future would look like when they learned they’d be having triplets, they also had to prepare for a serious heart surgery for one of the babies before he was born.

Baby Elliot was diagnosed prenatally with dextro-transposition of the great arteries (d-TGA), a heart defect in which the two main arteries carrying blood out of the heart are “transposed” and connected to the wrong chambers in the heart. Elliot also had a hole in his heart, called a ventricular septal defect, which often occurs in babies with d-TGA. The Rademachers knew that Elliot would need to have a complex surgery just a month after being born and that the outcome could dramatically impact his chance for survival and future quality of life.

According to Dr. Shardha Srinivasan, one of Elliot’s pediatric cardiologists at UW Health, the benefits of a prenatal diagnosis is threefold: to make sure that the mother and child are monitored closely throughout the pregnancy, to assemble the right team of specialists to care for the child at birth, and to educate and prepare the family for the specialized care their child will need before and after surgery.

“Knowing what to expect during our pregnancy and having a detailed plan for our boys’ arrival allowed us to manage our fears,” said Katie Rademacher, Elliot’s mom. “Our care team at UW Health did an extraordinary job of keeping us informed, explaining the complexities of Elliot’s condition, and making us feel supported through the entire process. It was a relief for us to know that we were in such good hands."

But it still wasn’t easy. There were times, Katie says, when they weren’t sure if Elliot was going to make it out of the hospital. In addition to his heart defect, Elliot and his brothers were born premature at 35 weeks. As a result, Elliot had to have a procedure just seven days after his birth to allow his heart to function better and to buy him some time until he was strong enough for the main surgery. Four weeks later, Elliot underwent surgery with Dr. Petros Anagnostopoulos to correct the d-TGA and to close the hole in his heart.

Today, Elliot is doing well and although he will have a cardiac care team with him through adulthood, his long-term outlook is good, and he likely won’t need any more surgeries.

“I definitely want Elliot to be aware of everything he went through,” Rademacher said. “I want him to know that he is a survivor, that he can do anything in this world. Because look what he did when he was just 8 weeks old.”