Born New Year’s Eve, precious baby Lacey entered 2019 as a healthy daughter to Gillian and Jordan Downes and little sister to Caleb. 16 days later Lacey was fighting for her life.
On January 16, 2019, during a routine midwife appointment at their home in Thames, alarm bells rang when Lacey’s midwife noticed the 16 day old’s skin tone looked vaguely blue. The change in tone was so subtle, surprised mum Gillian had no prior cause for concern. Lacey was typically a happy and healthy baby, she was progressing well and displayed no signs of what had been unfolding within her tiny body. In the next 24 hours, this changed rapidly.
Following calls between the midwife and the local Pediatric team, Gillian rushed Lacey to Thames Hospital where the emergency team took over. During the following hours, Lacey’s mystery condition worsened. Gillian and husband, Jordan were advised Lacey required urgent specialist care at the better equipped, Waikato Hospital. Assuming an ambulance would take Lacey on the 90-minute drive to Hamilton, the gravity of their daughter’s situation became clear when an air retrieval team wheeled Lacey out in a travel incubator prepped for swift transfer on The Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter. Accompanied by the emergency crew, Gillian boarded the rescue helicopter to join her baby, “That’s when it hit home, time was of the essence for Lacey’s survival”.
Aboard the Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter medical crew monitored Lacey’s decline, within minutes the rescue helicopter landed at Waikato Hospital and Lacey was whisked into intensive care. Examinations revealed Lacey had a rare heart condition called TAPVD, her pulmonary vein was connected to her right atrium, instead of left, which meant blood couldn’t circulate properly for Lacey to receive adequate oxygen. That night as her fragile system struggled to cope, Lacey was intubated to help her breathe. Starship’s Cardiology team was consulted and early the next day Lacey was flown to Starship Hospital for emergency open-heart surgery.
After several complications, Lacey slowly began to recover. Lacey spent seven weeks between Starship’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and 23b, the Children’s Heart Ward. A month after her first operation, Lacey underwent a second open heart surgery to redirect a large abnormal vein running through her diaphragm leading from her liver to her heart. Lacey’s mum Gillian describes TAPVD, Lacey’s rare congenital heart defect, as ‘random plumbing’.
Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Drainage is a unique and often undetected silent condition, with few obvious symptoms it typically remains untreated and can lead to sudden infant death.
In less than 24 hours, 16 day old Lacey went from a routine midwife exam at home, to urgent open-heart surgery at Starship. Thanks to an outstanding medical team of specialists and swift transport courtesy of The Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter, 12 months later Lacey got to celebrate her first birthday surrounded by a loving family. Lacey is a well, happy thriving one year old, fully recovered showing no sign of her past battles. Gillian estimates more than $500,000 was spent during Lacey’s care, praising the support and access to public healthcare and rescue services in New Zealand as overwhelming.
“TIME WAS OF THE ESSENCE FOR LACEY’S SURVIVAL AND WE ARE FOREVER GRATEFUL FOR YOUR SERVICE. WE CONSIDER OURSELVES VERY LUCKY TO HAVE OUR LITTLE GIRL HERE AND CAN’T WAIT TO SEE WHAT THE FUTURE BRINGS FOR HER”