Charlotte, known as Charlie, was born seeming healthy, but that evening, her parents noticed that her color was off. A routine pulse oximetry screening test on her foot within 24 hours revealed dangerously low oxygen saturation levels. “The neonatologist immediately took an x-ray and saw that something was wrong with her heart,” said Charlie’s mother, Gabrielle. “Everything happened lightning fast.”

Charlie’s birth hospital transferred her by helicopter to the cardiac intensive care unit at Children’s National. A diagnostic echocardiogram revealed that a life-threatening narrowing of the aorta, known as a coarctation, was obstructing the flow of blood from her heart to the rest of her body. Charlie underwent urgent coarctation repair surgery at four days old. Cardiac surgeon Manan Desai, M.D., performed the complex procedure, which widened the narrowed part of the aorta and restored normal blood flow.

A world-class team, including Dr. Martin, cared for Charlie as she recovered. As a first-time mother, Gabrielle was grateful for the comfort and care they provided. By the end of the week, Charlie was strong enough to go home. “From start to finish, everyone was so great. The compassion they had for us was amazing. Every question we had, they answered. They even showed us how to monitor her once we eventually got home,” says Gabrielle.

With follow-up appointments, care and time, Charlie began to move and experience the world like any other infant. Today, she’s an active toddler who is walking and loves watermelon and her family’s chocolate Labrador Retriever. She still visits her cardiologist every four months. Her heart continues to look healthy.

“The pulse-ox test is something so simple, and it takes 30 seconds to do,” says Gabrielle. “I’m so grateful we had this screening and were able to get the care we needed for Charlie in time.”
A young patient at Children's National Hospital.

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A young patient at Children's National Hospital.