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“She’s still Viviana”: A family’s gratitude for a young life saved

IMG_4097.JPGIt started out like any ordinary day. Viviana Tranberg went with her pre-k class on a school field trip. Her mother, Catherine, says that everything seemed fine when her four-year-old daughter went to bed that night. A short time later, her daughter called out to her, and something sounded terribly wrong with her voice. It was weak; she choked for air. When Catherine went into her daughter’s room, she found that she had wet the bed, which she says was unusual for her child. “I went to put her in the tub, and she just crumpled into a pile. I just scooped her up, wrapped her in a blanket, and rushed her to the hospital,” Catherine recalled.

She took Viviana to the hospital that was right down the road from where they lived. Catherine and her husband suspected she was having a severe asthma attack and took her right into the emergency department. It wasn’t long before the ED staff realized this was no ordinary asthma attack. “They were trying everything to no avail, and that’s when Dr. Wood was brought in on a telemedicine screen,” Catherine said.

She’s referring to Jonathan Wood, MD, a pediatric intensivist at Eastern Maine Medical Center. “It was pretty clear this child was very sick,” Dr. Wood recalled as he worked using the telemedicine screen to assess Viviana and do everything he could to save her life. He says being able to see her and to guide the ER staff was critical because this was a complex case with little margin for error. “This was the tightest rope I’ve ever actually walked, especially when I wasn’t physically in the room,” Dr. Wood explained.

After getting the little girl stabilized, almost two hours later, a LifeFlight critical transport team arrived by ambulance (the helicopter was grounded due to weather). They rushed the girl to Eastern Maine Medical Center where Dr. Wood and his staff in the Pediatric ICU continued to treat her—he says she made a remarkably quick recovery. She was off a ventilator in just a few days. He was confident that she suffered no brain injuries. After about a week, however, another problem arose—Viviana couldn’t move her arms. An MRI revealed she had a spinal cord injury. It was a devastating blow to Viviana and her family. “It was horrifying,” recalled Dr. Wood, “The mom, this family, they had way too many curveballs thrown at them. This is way above and beyond.” 

IMG_4127.JPGAfter running a series of tests and doing research, Dr. Wood and Eastern Maine Medical Center’s pediatric neurologists discovered that Viviana had Enterovirus D68, which left her with permanent paralysis of her left arm. She remained in the Eastern Maine Medical Center’s Pediatric Inpatient Unit for six weeks. Catharine stayed right there by her side. She did all her work with a laptop from her daughter's bedside. Her husband cared for their younger son, Anthony, at home.

That was one year ago. Viviana is making steady progress. With occupational therapy, she has been able to regain partial use of her right arm. She is now able to feed herself and write. She still needs help getting dressed, but her mother says they celebrate every accomplishment Viviana makes. It might be easy to be bitter about what happened, but Viviana’s parents are grateful that she survived and that, as her mother puts it, she’s still Viviana. “There are no words to describe how grateful we are,” she said. “The biggest thing for us is she still came out of everything as Viviana. Her brain wasn’t affected by anything she went through. She’s our little spitfire.” Dr. Wood says that he was impressed by the family's resolve throughout this ordeal and their positive outlook.

“What’s amazing about this story, is that it shows the resiliency of children, and of parents who can somehow gain perspective of what’s important,” he said.

Viviana just celebrated her sixth birthday. She is playing soccer, occasionally fighting with her younger brother, and most importantly, enjoying life.