When Courtney Loveland was 18 weeks pregnant with her first child, she was diagnosed with a life-threatening condition called vasa previa. Left undiagnosed, this condition can be fatal for both mom and baby.
“From the moment I learned I had vasa previa,” says Courtney, “I began to feel like a ticking time bomb.”
Shortly after Courtney was diagnosed, she transferred her care to Dr. Cynthia Maxwell, head of Sinai Health’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Courtney told Dr. Maxwell she was terrified of what might happen if she were to suffer a bleed at home, as she lives an hour away from the hospital. “Dr. Maxwell really took the time to listen and take my concerns seriously.”
Courtney checked into Mount Sinai Hospital at 29 weeks pregnant to be monitored should any signs of labour emerge. The plan was to wait until she was 35 weeks for a scheduled Caesarean-section birth – the treatment for vasa previa.
However, sometimes the best laid plans can change in a heartbeat.
When she was just past the 34 weeks mark, Courtney began experiencing symptoms of labour. That’s when the Mount Sinai team sprang into action. She was immediately rushed to the operating room for an emergency C-section where she was met by Dr. Maxwell and her team.
“I was so relieved to see Dr. Maxwell’s face as I was being whisked into the OR,” says Courtney. “I knew I was in excellent hands.”
The story of Courtney’s family is a happy one – her son Colton was born safely less than an hour after she went into labour on February 10, 2020.
“I came to Mount Sinai because they have the best care,” says Courtney. “Everybody was so thorough and so amazing, and they worked as a team for me and my baby from the moment that I set foot in this hospital.
“I cannot thank them enough from the bottom of my heart.”
Despite the pressures COVID-19 has placed on our health care system, the tiniest of Sinai Health’s patients continue to receive the best care the country has to offer. Our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has proven to be a well-equipped place to weather the threat of COVID-19, thanks in no small part to its private room configuration and strict infection prevention and control.
But this doesn’t mean Sinai Health’s NICU has been untouched by the pandemic. Since March, 2020, Mount Sinai Hospital has treated moms and babies who have tested positive for the virus, and learned much about its treatment. And still, more than 1,000 families receive care in our NICU each year.
One of those families included a mom who was positive for COVID-19 and due to give birth. In a world-first instance, the mother passed the virus on to her infant via her own blood, not through droplets. The mom’s placenta and breast milk also both tested positive for COVID-19. Today, mom and baby are both healthy, and are engaged with Sinai Health in ongoing research studies in order to develop best-in-class treatments for future patients.
Because parents are partners in the care of their NICU babies, thanks to Mount Sinai’s Family Integrated Care model, this meant adjustments to how the care team worked together, to ensure the health and well-being of babies and parents alike.
While our NICU patients are tiny, the strength embodied by them and their caregivers knows no bounds, as exemplified by the resilience of our NICU families during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ontario Fetal Centre (OFC), a partnership between Mount Sinai Hospital and The Hospital for Sick Children, occupies a special place in Canada’s health care landscape. Specializing in cutting-edge, in-utero surgeries and surgical interventions for sick babies, the OFC boasts a world-renowned team of experts, and offers the best and most advanced care to some of the highest-risk pregnancies.
Led by Dr. Greg Ryan, head of the OFC, the centre has grown to become the only fetal therapy centre in Canada, and one of only a few worldwide, capable of offering a complete range of specialized fetal diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. The partnership with SickKids has meant a full multidisciplinary approach to care, featuring specialists from both hospitals in a range of fields, ensuring excellent integrated and comprehensive care, both pre- and post-natal, to these most fragile of patients.
Thanks to its expert Fetal Therapy Team, the OFC is behind several clinical and scientific breakthroughs. It is where Canada’s complex twin pregnancies are referred for treatment, and its spina bifida program has to date treated 34 fetuses, opening up the possibility of life with normalized mobility for babies with this diagnosis.
Dr. Tim Van Mieghem has recently launched three specialty clinics at the OFC: the innovative Early Anatomy Clinic in 2018, and in collaboration with SickKids, an early Echocardiography Clinic, where high-risk pregnancies can be evaluated by detailed fetal ultrasounds at as early as 12 weeks’ gestation. In 2020, Van Mieghem led the launch of a multidisciplinary Fetal Neurology Clinic to improve the diagnosis of fetal brain anomalies.
Members of the Fetal Therapy team are involved in a broad range of clinical research and education. They have run a series of popular fetal therapy courses teaching complex fetal therapy techniques using high-fidelity simulators. To date, physicians from more than 30 countries have attended these courses.
In September 2020, Sinai Health premiered its first-ever brand campaign at the Toronto International Film Festival, bringing its gold-standard care to the silver screen. Sinai Health is a leader in women’s and infants' health, cancer care, diabetes, palliative care, and research, and this campaign invited viewers inside its walls to see that expertise in action.
Patients allowed an award-winning cinematographer to be in the room as they gave birth, underwent stomach surgery and learned to walk again. The resulting documentaries take the viewer on a journey from research discoveries to groundbreaking surgeries and advances in maternal care.
The goal of the ongoing campaign is to create a greater understanding of the essential role philanthropy plays in enabling discovery and research, which in turn fuels the future of care. Philanthropy provides for equipment, beds and a portion of capital costs not covered by government dollars.
Louis de Melo, Sinai Health Foundation's CEO, said the following about the campaign launch: "We are showing how excellent care is a force for hope, and more urgently needed now than ever. We want to take people on a journey to discover the real stories of care within our walls. It’s an invitation to get to know us and support the largest redevelopment in our history.”
Watch their stories now: SinaiCares.ca
Sinai Health’s Labour of Love program is the perfect way to celebrate your or your loved one’s baby and make a difference. With a minimum donation of $100, you’ll receive our adorable teddy bear and a custom certificate. The bear is named Eiko, after the first baby who underwent surgery in Canada to repair a form of spina bifida in-utero at just 25 weeks.
Thanks to this groundbreaking surgery, Eiko is thriving and catching up to her older brothers. Mom Romelia shares, “Baby Eiko is no longer a baby and will be starting school. She is now running, dancing, playing hallway soccer with her brother, telling us stories and enjoying life as a three-year-old. There is not one moment that I look at her without gratefulness in my heart for her amazing team at Mount Sinai Hospital.”
Every dollar raised through the Labour of Love program will be matched up to $1 million by a generous donation from the family of Sinai Health Foundation co-chair David Cynamon.