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Patient Stories

Crisis for Krista
By Healthy Life 2010 Winter

No little girl dreams of spending her birthday in the hospital. Certainly, Krista Dariotis of Swampscott didn't as she looked forward to turning 7 on December 2. A few days prior, however, she developed a cough and low fever. Her mother, Emily, grew concerned when Krista began having trouble breathing. “That first night, her fever spiked to 103 degrees and her breathing was shallow. By 6 a.m., the fever was still high and her breathing was getting worse,” said Dariotis.

As a cardiac sonographer at NSMC, Dariotis is accustomed to handling health crises. “This time it was my child in distress,” she explained, “and nothing prepares you for that.” Terrified, she called Marblehead Pediatrics, where she has taken both of her children since they were babies. Staff there directed her immediately to the pediatric emergency room at NSMC. Pediatricians at NSMC, who are also credentialed at MassGeneral Hospital for Children, were quick to order a chest X-ray and run an H1N1 test. The results weren’t good on either front. The X-ray showed possible signs of pneumonia and the flu test came back positive.

“My heart just sank. All these terrible things were running through my head because of what I had heard and read about H1N1. This is a virus that is killing kids,” said Dariotis. “But I knew I was in the right place. Working at NSMC, I knew that the level of care Krista was going to receive could not be matched anywhere else.”

Emergency physicians admitted Krista to NSMC’s pediatric inpatient unit where she was greeted by toys, movies and games. “It was great. They really put her at ease during something that was pretty frightening for all of us,” said Dariotis. For several hours doctors treated Krista with oxygen, antibiotics and IV fluids. After another X-ray, and still no improvement in her condition, doctors decided she needed the attention of specialists at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston.  Because of NSMC’s collaboration with Mass General, a team of specialists was quickly informed about the case and knew the Dariotis family was on their way.

Krista was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit suffering from moderate respiratory distress. Later that night, her condition worsened. “Her blood pressure started to drop,” explained Dariotis. “All of a sudden an entire team of doctors and nurses filled our room and started working on our little girl. I was literally shaking I was so scared.” Through IV fluids and oxygen, doctors were able to get Krista’s blood pressure back up, but she wasn’t in the clear yet. Krista spent the rest of night coughing and in pain.

Tuesday morning the latest X-ray came back clear. Krista did not have bacterial pneumonia; however, doctors did discover that her right lung had collapsed. At this point they decided to change the course of treatment and started giving Krista a new medication to relax the muscles in her airways and increase air flow to her lungs. “It was amazing. After just one treatment she looked at me and said, ‘I feel really, really better now.’ And within a couple of hours she was sitting up coloring and doing crafts,” said Dariotis.

Meanwhile, back in Marblehead, Krista’s pediatrician, Richard Miller, M.D., was monitoring everything that was happening in Boston. NSMC is linked to the same secure electronic medical record system used by Mass General and other Partners HealthCare hospitals, ensuring greater communication, efficiency and safety. “It really enhances the care we can provide,” said Dr. Miller. “I was able to track Krista’s progress and connect with Mrs. Dariotis frequently to make sure she understood everything that was happening.”

On Wednesday morning—Krista’s 7th birthday—her conditioned improved dramatically and she was moved into a regular pediatric room. Nurses in both units sang to her and helped her celebrate with presents. “Everyone really went out of their way to make her feel special,” said Dariotis. After another 24 hours in the hospital, Krista and Emily were able to go home where dad, Steve, and older brother, Nicholas, were anxiously waiting. It was a birthday none of the family will soon forget.

“This is something I never want to go through again. But it made me realize the true benefits of NSMC’s close relationship with MassGeneral Hospital for Children.”