When seven-month-old Phillip Simmons gets to an age when he can understand, his mother Mary Hunstein has a story to tell him about the night his twin brother, James, Jr., saved his life. James, Jr., along with paramedics with Clay County Fire Rescue Unit 22, and the staff at Wolfson Children’s ER at Baptist Clay Medical Campus in Fleming Island, to be exact.
Mother to three small boys Phillip and James, Jr., who were a month old at the time, and three-year-old Logan, and with a husband, James, Sr., who was overseas working as a contractor in Afghanistan, Mary was a busy mom that fateful day in April 2014. Having given the twins their morning bottle at 7 am and putting them back down for a nap, nothing seemed amiss as Mary went about her morning chores. At 10 am, the usual cry rang out, prompting her to bring the next round of bottles into the nursery. When she got to the room she noticed that while James, Jr. was screaming at the top of his lungs, Phillip’s head was turned to the side, he was pale and his lips and fingers were blue. She grabbed him out of his crib and called 911.
“Phillip was barely breathing. I stayed on the phone and they instructed me to keep him awake and stimulated so he would keep breathing but he wasn’t breathing normally,” said Mary. “When Rescue arrived a few minutes later they gave him oxygen, checked his vitals, put him in the ambulance and drove him to the Wolfson Children’s ER at Baptist Clay.”
Hysterical, Mary gathered up Logan and James, Jr., and made her way to the Wolfson Children’s ER at Baptist Clay where upon her arrival, they were put in a private room. Nurses gave Logan toys to play with and checked on them constantly while tests were being run on Phillip. Pediatric emergency medicine physician Mohammad Aboudan, MD, was there when Phillip came in and said the first course of action was to secure the baby’s airway.
“He was not breathing effectively and was very lethargic but when we saw that his blood oxygen levels were starting to drop, I decided to intubate him,” remembered Dr. Aboudan. “It’s unusual to see this problem with a one-month old baby as they should be able to breathe well and maintain good oxygen levels. So once we got him stabilized, we contacted the Kids Kare Mobile ICU to transfer him to the care of pediatric critical care colleagues in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville for further evaluation.”
Kids Kare transported Phillip, providing constant supervision by a pediatric critical care nurse and pediatric respiratory therapist in the “ICU on wheels.” The unit is equipped with advanced pediatric monitoring equipment to support the care they provided for him during the 20-mile trip.
When Phillip arrived at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, pediatric critical care physicians and staff conducted extensive testing to determine the cause of his breathing issue. No stone was left unturned. They checked for a bacterial infection, ran blood tests, took X-rays, and assessed brain function since no one was sure how long he had gone without enough oxygen before Mary found him.
Finally, because he battled to breathe on his own, Phillip was put into a medically induced coma as doctors tried to find a cause. Ten days later when he came out of the coma, he was able to take his own breaths and all tests came back normal. In the following weeks, sleep apnea was ruled out with the use of a special monitor.
Through the process of elimination, doctors determined that it was most likely a case of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) that his mother thankfully interrupted, or possibly an unexplained metabolic imbalance.
“It’s certainly an unusual case, but today he’s doing great,” said Dr. Aboudan. “Taking into account his age and his dire condition when he came in, I’m sure that having a Wolfson Children’s ER at Baptist Clay Medical Campus that was close to home and specializes in pediatric emergency medicine made a huge difference in his outcome.”
Mary, of course, continues to keep a very close eye on both of her babies but doctors tell her that they don’t expect Phillip to have another episode now that he’s months out from the ordeal. And although they don’t know how long he went without oxygen when she found him unresponsive in his crib, he is thriving now – saying his first words, trying to crawl and sporting his first two teeth. But Mary will never forget the morning that James, Jr.’s timely cry prompted her to check on her boys, and what probably would have happened had he waited just a few more minutes to tell her he was hungry.
“The incident hasn’t set him back at all, and I believe it’s because the doctors and the ER at Baptist Clay and Wolfson Children’s Hospital were there for him,” said Mary. “They understood how to deal with my baby better than any other hospital would have because they know children are different than adults, and have experience taking care of them. It’s because of them that Phillip survived and is living a normal life now.”
Safe Sleep Tips
Ready, Set, Sleep is a community program funded by Kohl’s Cares and offered by THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. The initiative promotes the importance of practicing safe sleep guidelines including safe sleeping environments for babies. According the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), healthy infants should be placed on their backs to sleep. Since they began recommending this sleep position in 1992, the annual SIDS rate has dropped in half. Other AAP-endorsed safe sleep tips include:
• Always use a firm sleep surface. Car seats are not recommended for routine sleep.
• Babies should sleep in the same room as parents but not in the same bed.
• Keep soft objects or loose bedding like blankets and pillows out of the crib.
• Wedges and positioners should not be used.
• Pregnant women should receive regular prenatal care, and should not smoke during pregnancy or after birth.
• Breastfeeding is recommended.
• Offer a pacifier at nap and bedtime.
• Avoid covering the baby’s head or overheating.
• Do not use home monitors or commercial devices marketed to reduce SIDS.
• Infants should receive all recommended vaccinations.
• Supervised, awake tummy time is recommended daily to facilitate development and minimize the occurrence of positional plagiocephaly (flat heads).