Daughter’s devotion and tech skills save mom’s life
Aware of her mother’s irregular heartbeat and her struggles to breathe, 13-year-old Asha Caldwell would get up in the middle night with her iPad and phone in hand to watch over her mom while she slept.
Asha’s preparations proved lifesaving when her mother went into cardiac arrest. Asha sprang into action and called 911. Meanwhile, Bertha received 12 shocks from her implanted defibrillator, which was programmed to detect the irregular heartbeat and work to get the heart muscle back into rhythm.
“I was totally dumfounded to learn that my daughter had been making entries in her iPad and researching my medical condition,” says Bertha Caldwell, heart transplant patient, who just celebrated her 50th birthday in January. “She wanted to be able to explain my condition to doctors, paramedics and 911 operators in the event I might become incapacitated and unable to speak.”
“When I saw her, she was cold to the touch, on multiple drips, and was having heart and kidney failure – she was very sick,” says Dr. Gregory Macaluso, advanced heart failure and cardiac transplant specialist with the Advocate Heart Institute at Advocate Christ Medical Center. “Over the course of weeks, we managed to stabilize her condition and then list her for heart transplantation.”
Dr. Macaluso reflects that, during the first heart-transplant meeting with the family, it was Asha who took copious notes on her iPad and frequently chimed in, providing much needed background information about her mother’s medical condition.
“At one point during the meeting, Asha looked up at me and said, ‘Please help my mommy,’” continued Dr. Macaluso.
On Thanksgiving Day 2011, Asha’s prayers were answered. Her mother underwent heart transplant surgery at Christ Medical Center, the donor heart having proven to be a perfect match.
Now, three years later, Bertha is doing well and shows no signs that her body is rejecting the new heart.
“When family members and friends now ask about my heart – or my health, I refer them to my daughter,” chuckled Bertha. “It was hard to believe at times that my daughter was the one explaining my complex medical condition to the health care team and using extremely long and complicated medical terminology.”
Today, Asha says she wants to be a lawyer, but Bertha thinks a doctor may be the more appropriate career path for her.
“What matters most is that, because of my daughter and the team at Christ Medical Center, I am here and able to continue singing in my church choir,” smiled Bertha.
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