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CHICAGO – It’s a horrible injury. When Kayden Swann was shot on April 6, a 21-month-old child caught in the crossfire, an entire medical team mounted a Herculean effort to save his life. And at the center of his care was a doctor inspired by his own violent loss. It was an event that ultimately brought him to Kayden’s bedside.
The story begins on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, where on a sunny spring afternoon the road rage ended with gunfire and a bullet going through Kayden’s head.
Dr. Marcelo Malakooti works in Lurie Children’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.
“It looks like the bullet went through the right temple,” he said. “And so it goes into the whole cortex of the brain and the other side.”
It is an area that controls movement and vision.
“When he arrived there was a lot of blood and he really wasn’t doing much,” Malakooti said. “And that was a bad sign for us.”
Kayden was rushed to hospital by a Good Samaritan. He was eventually brought to a trauma room at Lurie Children’s equipped to treat the most critical patients.
“It’s very controlled chaos,” said Dr Yiannis Katsogridakis.
WGN Medical Watch has captured the same scene in the past. Teams from three deep lines gather, some at the bedside, a secondary unit at the perimeter and another just outside the door watching from a bird’s-eye monitor – all focused on the baby in the bed .
“There are about 20 to 30 people mobilized,” Katsogridakis said.
Asked about the odds of saving a child with Kayden’s injuries, Malakooti said: “When you’re in the moment, you don’t think about the odds. We don’t have the luxury of thinking about odds.
Malakooti had no intention of working in a pediatric hospital. But ironically, it was another act of violence that changed the course of his career. In 2007, his cousin was killed in the Virginia Tech mass shootings.
“I was about to take care of adults for the rest of my life and when that happened it was just a reminder of how innocent children are,” he said. “And no one is asking for that to happen. And how they are endangered. And so I made a commitment to dedicate my life to trying to reverse that as much as possible.
From Trauma A, Kayden was brought to the pediatric intensive care unit.
“What we found when we did the scans was that his whole brain was very swollen from the injury,” Malakooti said.
Neurosurgeons placed a shunt or drain to relieve the growing pressure in Kayden’s head. The toddler was placed in a medically induced coma and a ventilator resumed breathing, all so his brain could rest. At the same time, her little heart was under tremendous stress.
“We had to put his heart into overdrive, super drive and give him extra fuel to pump what his brain needed,” Malakooti said. “Multiple sensors on his body to measure his heart rate and blood pressure and several large catheters.”
Day and night, hour by hour, Kayden was watched.
“He needed a nurse who would be with him and just him all the time, and a team of doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists,” Malakooti said. “We’re not holding anything back.”
While a team of 50 worked on Kayden upstairs, downstairs Malakooti provided frequent updates to the media on the toddler’s progress.
“He’s had a few hard knocks and he’s had a few scary setbacks where we thought maybe we couldn’t reverse and protect the brain,” he said. “Here’s this awful story with this innocent kid. We really wanted him to beat the odds. … The first three days are really important and that’s when you move on. … As we started to lighten some of his coma meds, we wanted to see what he could do on his own Can he move his fingers Can he move his toes Does he start moving his body If they can breathe on their own. We also wonder if they will be able to walk, feed themselves, interact with the outside world?
He certainly beat all the odds. Just days after we pulled him out of his coma, he was a lusty little guy trying to get his stuff out. This is very good news for the family, very good news for us. It’s a miracle.
Lives can be changed overnight when things like this happen. I think the word that comes to mind is reckless because obviously there’s no foresight in the minds of these people who will use firearms in dangerous ways, and if they had the foresight and could be in the room with us and be with the child for weeks, I wonder if that would have a different impact on them.
Dr. Marcelo Malakooti
Remarkably, Kayden is expected to be released from the hospital in the coming weeks and then head to a rehabilitation center where therapists will help her regain as much function as possible. It is not yet clear what kind of deficits he will face for a long way to go, but Malakooti hopes he will experience a meaningful recovery.
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