Patient goes from NICU to pageant winner
Published on Tuesday, July 7, 2020
By: Annie Oeth, email@example.com
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in the Fall 2019 edition of Under the Rainbow, the Children's of Mississippi magazine.
The first time Dr. Abhay Bhatt saw Savannah Richardson, the newborn was struggling to breathe with underdeveloped lungs.
Richardson’s changed a little since then.
Savannah graduated from Germantown High School in 2019. After a year at Holmes Community College, she will attend Mississippi State University this fall.
“We owe her survival to the care she received at Batson,” said Jennifer Richardson, Savannah’s mother.
The Richardsons – Bill, Jennifer and Savannah – returned to the state’s only children’s hospital with Bill’s robotics students from Ridgeland High School.
When the Richardsons learned that Bhatt, a UMMC neonatologist, was still caring for newborns at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where Savannah had been a patient 18 years before, they knew they had to see him again.
“God brought him back in our path,” Jennifer Richardson said.
Savannah had started life at an area hospital.
“She was having problems breathing and was taken to the NICU,” Richardson said. “They told me this was very normal, that sometimes babies need time to begin breathing better.”
At first, Savannah received oxygen, but she was put on a ventilator to obtain better results.
The next morning, Jennifer and her mother were on their way to see Savannah. “They stopped us at the door and said the doctor wanted to talk with us,” Jennifer said. “I knew that wasn’t going to be good news.”
They were told Savannah would need a higher level of care. An ambulance had been called to take her to the Medical Center’s NICU, the only Level IV NICU in the state – the most acute level of care.
“It scared us to death,” Richardson said. “Dr. Bhatt was the first doctor we saw there. He told us she had pulmonary hypertension.”
Pulmonary hypertension in newborns can cause respiratory distress and can be fatal.
After nearly two weeks of Savannah breathing via a ventilator, her family had two options, according to Bhatt: surgery in Boston, or trying nitric oxide, which was then experimental for her condition.
“They told us she might not survive the transport and surgery, so we went with the second option,” Richardson said. “It was a miracle.”
Nitric oxide, a naturally occurring vasodilator, improved Savannah’s oxygenation. “Within a week, it was a dramatic difference,” Richardson said.
For Bhatt, seeing his former patient thriving and heading to college was meaningful – as was learning that his nephew, Nagendra Upadhyay, is one of Bill Richardson’s robotics students at Ridgeland High School.
“We are so happy Savannah is doing so well,” Bhatt said, “and it truly is a small world.”