Ready to Live
Ella Maintz is a happy infant who spends her days at home sleeping, laughing and smiling for her older siblings, but a few months ago, her life was much more fragile as she held on day-to-day in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center.
When Ella arrived at Cardinal Glennon in April, just one day old, she was given a zero-to-one percent chance of survival. Ella’s lungs were collapsed, plus she had hypertension and low blood oxygen. Physicians did not expect her to live through the helicopter flight from Springfield, Ill., to St. Louis.
“Everyone kept saying, ‘this is the sickest baby we’ve ever seen,” said her mother, Kelley Maintz, who is a neonatal intensive care nurse in Springfield. “From the role of a parent, it gives me a totally different perspective on things. I never thought that I’d be on the other side, and my eyes are a lot more open to the parents now. I am much more empathetic.”
Nothing Short of a Miracle
Against all odds, Ella survived the helicopter flight from Springfield that day with the help of a transport team, including one respiratory therapist who hand-pumped 150 breaths per minute into her lungs. She then pulled through a procedure at Cardinal Glennon to place her on ECMO, or Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation.
ECMO is a machine that did the work for Ella’s heart and lungs until they were strong enough to work on their own, and is often considered a last resort for the most critically ill children.
What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. After a few days on ECMO, Ella had stabilized, and within a week she had gained weight, could breathe without the help of a machine, and was breastfeeding.
“For a child who was unlikely to survive, she’s perfectly normal now,” said Ella’s neonatologist, Greg Mantych, M.D. “As sick as she was, to not only survive, but to be doing very well now, is pretty remarkable.”
Flying with Angels
Ella’s dad, Bill, thinks the family may have had a little help during those difficult days of waiting.
“Kelley and I had begun preparing ourselves, that we were going to lose our daughter,” he said. “Ella’s grandpa says that the helicopter must have flown just a little bit closer to Heaven and picked up two angels, because she’s doing just great now.”
Ella spent three weeks at Cardinal Glennon before going home to meet her older siblings Dalton, 8, and Reagan, 4.
“The kids love being around Ella,” Kelley Maintz said. “We’re just so happy to be home.”