St. Luke’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of its opening. Children with cardiac issues, pneumonia, seizure disorders, meningitis and, of course, Covid-19 all benefitted from St. Luke’s team of pediatric critical care specialists (intensivists) during the past year.
Liberty High School athlete Noah Kostic is one of those children.
On Sunday, June 28, Gina Kostic, along with her three sons, went to her sister’s east Bethlehem home to celebrate her nephew’s first birthday. The older cousins finished a game of basketball and went inside to cool off. Shortly thereafter, Gina’s sister ran out of the house yelling that something was wrong with Gina’s oldest son, Noah.
Gina found 15-year-old Noah lying on the sofa where he appeared to be convulsing and was clearly in distress. At the same time, her brother-in-law Matt – certified in CPR - immediately put Noah on the floor and began performing CPR. Unable to watch, Gina went out in the yard while her sisters ran through the neighborhood in search of any medical professionals. Two nurses and an EMT/firefighter from nearby came to assist while they waited for the ambulance. “One of the nurses advised me to stay outside, suggesting I didn’t want to see my son like that,” remembers Gina. Terrified, she then got in the ambulance with her unconscious son and they headed to St. Luke’s University Hospital – Bethlehem.
Within 15 minutes of arriving at St. Luke’s, Noah was intubated (attached to a ventilator via a tube in his windpipe) and they learned he had suffered a cardiac arrest due to Wolf Parkinson White Syndrome (WPW). WPW is a fairly rare syndrome that presents at birth in which extra electrical pathways in the heart cause a rapid heartbeat. In Noah’s case, he had five extra pathways. Relieved Noah was alive, Gina was amazed out how quickly they were able to stabilize and diagnose him. “I thought WPW … what the heck is that?” admits Gina. But more importantly, her son was alive and quickly moved upstairs to St. Luke’s new Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).
Noah remained on a ventilator for the first 24-hours of his week-long stay, with critical care physicians and nurses caring for him 24/7. Noah’s parents stayed in his room the entire time and were kept informed and updated around the clock. “Everyone was so great. They made Noah laugh, lightened the mood and calmed us down when we needed it,” says Gina.
Under the remarkable care of St. Luke’s pediatric cardiologist Elizabeth E. Adams, DO, it was determined Noah required an ablation to destroy the extra pathways and correct his heart-rhythm problems. “In addition to delivering great care to Noah, Dr. Adams provided excellent guidance so that we could make the best decisions for him.” Following a successful ablation, Noah continues to see Dr. Adams locally for all of his follow-up care. His Wolf Parkinson White Syndrome is gone and today he has no physical limitations. He also has no memory of the scary episode, for which his mom is grateful.
“Prior to June 28, Noah was a normal, healthy high-school sophomore who played sports his whole life. We had no idea about his ailment,” explains his mom. A simple EKG revealed Noah’s condition, but he never had a need for such a test prior to this incident. “Life can change in an instant,” says Gina.
No longer constantly checking her phone or regularly messaging Noah to see if he is okay, Gina has finally relaxed. Admittedly, she’ll be a little nervous when Noah suits up for Liberty High School’s first football game this fall, but she’ll be there cheering him on.
“Children and their families are able to remain close to home and within the St. Luke’s network while receiving high quality pediatric care,” says Christopher Plymire, MD, Medical Director of St. Luke’s PICU. “Dealing with a critical illness is scary and overwhelming, so eliminating the need to travel for care is a great benefit for patients and families.”
The PICU is part of an $11 million expansion dedicated to providing advanced care to critically ill children close to home. St. Luke’s pediatric specialty areas include cardiology, pulmonology, general surgery, neurology, orthopedics, endocrinology, and dermatology among others. The addition of more pediatric specialists is part of St. Luke’s ongoing commitment to providing high level pediatric care in the region.
To support that growth, St. Luke’s recently broke ground on a new 37,500 square foot Pediatric Specialty Center in Center Valley. The new Center will house nephrology, gastroenterology, cardiology, pulmonology, developmental, neurology, endocrinology, physical therapy and occupational therapy, pediatric primary care and pediatric nutrition. The new site will provide the opportunity for pediatric specialists to collaborate more efficiently, as well as offer the convenience of having a child’s specialists in one location. The St. Luke’s Pediatric Specialty Center is scheduled to open in 2022.