Infant Twins’ Sudden Illness Leads to Need for Dual Heart Transplants at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt

Four-month-old identical twins Abigail and Shea Patrick were miracle babies. Their parents tried to have children for years. While the twins were born a bit prematurely, they were healthy and vibrant, until Oct. 21. That’s when baby Abigail, at age 3 1/2 months, became gravely ill.

"It started off as a cold, but then Abigail got worse, her color changed," recalls her mother, Lisa Patrick. "She turned whitish and was mottled looking."

The Patricks, from Huntsville, Ala., took Abigail to the emergency room where Huntsville doctors discovered an enlarged heart, a condition called cardiomyopathy. The mysterious illness, often related to a viral infection, can appear suddenly in infants. There may also be a genetic predisposition to develop the condition. Doctors advised the family to come to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital to await a transplant for Abigail.

Shea appeared to be fine, but because she had a cold at the same time as Abigail, Patrick asked that she have a chest x-ray. Shea was also found to be suffering from cardiomyopathy.

"We just want people to know this can occur," Patrick said. "Both girls will need heart transplants and there is not enough information out there about the need for organs in infants."

Doctors at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital say that Abigail is listed as a Status-1 patient, placing her atop the transplant list. She could receive a new heart within days, weeks, or perhaps even months, depending on when a heart may become available. Shea is also on the transplant list, but for the time being has been placed as a lower priority due to her current state of health.

Until a new heart arrives for Abigail the Patrick family is alternating staying with the babies in their rooms at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, and at the Ronald McDonald House.

November 8, 2004

Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital

Contact: Carole Bartoo, 322-7755