6-year-old Victoria Bermudez came down with a low-grade fever in February, her mother, Judith Ferrer, did what most parents would: gave her Tylenol and Motrin. Over the next few days, Victoria’s fever persisted and she developed a mild cough.
When Judith noticed Victoria was breathing heavily, she took her to an urgent care center, where she tested positive for influenza and strep. While there, Victoria’s breathing got even worse. The doctor called 911 and Victoria was immediately rushed to a nearby emergency room. Over the next four hours, Victoria - a charismatic kindergartner who was previously healthy with no medical history - went into cardiac arrest three times. She was moved into intensive care, where her body went into septic shock, negatively impacting all of the organs in her body.
Victoria’s only chance at survival, her parents were told, was for her to receive extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, a treatment commonly referred to as ECMO, in which a machine takes over the work of the lungs and the heart to allow those organs time to rest and recover. With few hospitals able to offer this advanced and complicated ECMO treatment, Victoria’s parents decided they wanted her moved to Holtz Children’s Hospital at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center.
The pediatric transport team from Holtz Children’s - a team composed of physicians, nurses and respiratory technicians specially trained to care for the sickest patients in need of safe and rapid transportation to the hospital - picked up Victoria at the hospital where she was being treated and brought her straight to the pediatric intensive care unit at Holtz Children’s.
Doctors, including Dr. Barry Gelman, examined Victoria and reiterated to her parents just how dire the situation was. Within hours, Victoria was placed on ECMO, one of only a handful of children and premature babies who receive the treatment each year at Holtz Children’s.
Victoria remained on ECMO for 17 days, intubated and sedated during the treatment. Doctors encountered many obstacles along the way, including severe blood loss that required multiple transfusions and an ischemic foot, in which a lack of adequate arterial blood flow from the heart to the foot cuts off circulation. Victoria’s right foot was so severely damaged that it turned black and risked amputation, but the team of medical professionals at Holtz Children’s - pediatric critical care physicians, surgeons, and highly skilled intensive care nurses - were able to prevent that from happening.
For nearly two months, Victoria remained in the pediatric intensive care unit at Holtz, recovering from the trauma her body underwent. She required the help of a ventilator to breathe and a feeding tube for nutrition. Bed-ridden for so long, Victoria also needed daily physical, speech and occupational therapy at Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital to help her walk, regain her strength, feed herself, and talk.
This week, Victoria will be discharged home - and doctors say she will likely make a full recovery. Victoria looks forward to being reunited with her little sister, returning to school and once again being able to do ballet and gymnastics.