At one point, baby girl Keiani was given zero percent chance at survival. But, thanks to the teams providing expert care across multiple specialties at Levine Children’s Hospital, she’s now stronger than ever.

News, Child Health | 9 months ago

Born with a Heart Defect, Keiani Beat the Odds by Triumphing Over Life-Threatening Complications

At one point, baby girl Keiani was given zero percent chance at survival. But thanks to the teams providing expert care across multiple specialties at Atrium Health Levine Children's, she's now stronger than ever. 

When Keiani Scherer was born with a heart defect, the outlook was grim from the start. Placed in the loving care of her grandparents following her birth, Sandra and Elliott Scherer noticed that Keiani began to experience breathing problems. They immediately rushed her to Atrium Health’s Levine Children’s Hospital (LCH).

She was discharged three months later, but not long after that, she was acting very lethargic and was once again brought to LCH. At that point, doctors discovered that her heart was failing. A heart transplant was her only chance at survival, and she was put on the waiting list.

While Keiani’s family patiently waited for her new heart, Thomas Maxey, MD, her pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon at LCH and Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute, fitted her with a temporary heart pump that maintains blood circulation.

“If this baby can go through this, I can’t complain about anything,” recalls Sandra. “We need to give this baby every chance at life.” 

A Critical Situation

It didn’t take long for more problems to appear. A month after the installation of the heart pump, one of the tubes that was connected to Keiani’s chest became infected. The pediatric infectious disease team was consulted, but the infection’s source was unclear, and it persisted despite efforts to fight it.

Keiani developed a fever and eventually tested positive for sepsis, a life-threatening complication caused by infection. The doctors finally determined that her bowel had ruptured and there was a hole between her intestine and the tube, leading to a serious infection.

When the makers of the heart pump were consulted, they said they had never seen anything like this before, and told Gonzalo Wallis, MD, Keiani’s pediatric cardiologist and the director of LCH and Sanger's pediatric heart failure and heart transplant program, that Keiani had  zero chance of survival. And to add to the growing list of challenges, her team of doctors determined that any corrective surgery would be incredibly risky because Keiani was on blood thinners. 

Despite this, the LCH doctors consulted Daniel Bambini, MD, a pediatric surgeon. Dr. Bambini thought she still had a chance—and knew that even this small chance was worth it.

He operated on Keiani, found the hole between the tube and intestine, and successfully closed it. The infection was gone.

A Much Brighter Future 

After the surgery, things started looking up for Keiani. And a couple of months later, she finally received her heart transplant. 

Fast-forward to today and it’s been over a year since she had her transplant, and Keiani is now happy and doing great. She continues to need physical and speech therapy and has had some feeding issues—but looking at her now, you’d never know she was once just minutes from death.

Saving Keiani’s life was undeniably a team effort. “Everyone on the care team was wonderful,” says Sandra. “They made sure all of our concerns were met. It’s like they hold hands in a circle to take care of the whole family.” 

Without the dedication of the team at LCH, Keiani’s outcome may have been very different. The cardiology and intensive care departments came together with the infectious disease and surgery teams to give Keiani the best possible chance.

“God allowed her to see her first birthday,” says Sandra. “She is strong, she is a fighter, she is a special kind of spice, she is bold. And her best goes on."