When Rebecca Flores Mantilla was in the second trimester of her pregnancy, her obstetrician (OB) diagnosed her fetus with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), a malformation of the diaphragm that allows abdominal contents to protrude into the chest. Because this defect prevents the baby’s lungs from developing normally and requires surgical correction shortly after birth, Mrs. Mantilla’s OB deemed her pregnancy to be high risk and referred her to the pediatric surgeons in the Maternal Fetal Program at MassGeneral Hospital for Children.
MGHfC established the Maternal Fetal Program in 2008 in order to better care for families such as the Mantillas struggling to understand and manage their prenatal diagnosis. A team of obstetricians, genetic counselors and pediatric specialists specializing in high-risk cases are enlisted to care for this unique patient population. Two prenatal care coordinators, Elizabeth Shannon, PhD, RN, CPNP, and Julie Piotrowski, RN, MSN, PNP, ease the burden for anxious parents by coordinating care administered by these specialists throughout the hospital.
“Our priority is providing timely access to the pediatric specialists so that parents can have their questions answered.”
“We connect patients with the specialists they need, but we’re also here to answer questions that range from practical issues, like parking at the hospital, to more significant concerns about their child’s long-term needs and health management,” says Ms. Piotrowski. “Our priority is providing timely access to the pediatric specialists so that parents can have their questions answered.”
Knowing What to Expect Every Step
Since their first visit, Mrs. Mantilla and her husband, Ed, appreciated the care and support they received through the MGHfC program. “Our OB was frank and upfront so that we were prepared, but he always had a positive outlook,” Mrs. Mantilla says. “And our team made sure we knew what to expect every step of the way. They gave us a tour of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) before I delivered and reviewed the possible complications with us.” After several weeks recovering from surgery in the NICU, baby Marisa went home with her parents.
“It’s wonderful to know you can take care of the parent and then the baby soon after,” Dr. Shannon says of the Maternal Fetal program.
“I believe that Marisa’s case demonstrates the value of a prenatal consultation team,” says Daniel P. Doody, MD, Marisa’s surgeon at MGHfC. “I had an opportunity to see her in a post-operative visit a few weeks after the surgery, and she is growing, thriving and becoming an even more beautiful baby. It’s a true compliment to the multiple teams involved in her care that this little one has done so well.”
Dr. Shannon and Ms. Piotrowski are pleased with the impact their maternal fetal program has made in such a short period of time. “It’s wonderful to know you can take care of the parent and then the baby soon after,” Dr. Shannon says of the maternal fetal program. “The difference between MGH and many other hospitals is that we can make a prenatal diagnosis and see the same patient when she is 80 — and at every stage in between. We can provide a lifetime of care.”