"They Saved My Son’s Life"
Family’s First Trip to Harrington ED in Webster Gives 11-Year-Old a Second Chance
On February 4, 2012, 11-year-old Zachary Urbanowski was playing with his cousins at a birthday party in Webster when, suddenly, his mother, Diane, and stepfather, John (Hanley), realized that something was wrong. Zack came upstairs from the basement and started screaming and retching. Then Zack went limp.
Knowing Zack needed immediate medical attention, they drove to the Emergency Department at Harrington HealthCare at Hubbard, just a few minutes away in Webster. “Until then, I never needed to go to a hospital with Zack. We live in Douglas, and we didn’t know what to expect when we carried Zack into the ER,” said Diane.
Immediately upon their arrival, Zack was put on a stretcher while the attending physician, Christian Menard, M.D. and Leah Pigeon, RN consulted with the parents.
Time Was Ticking
"What Zack’s parents described suggested that he might have had a head injury," said Dr. Menard. Within five minutes, he accompanied Zack to receive a CT scan down the hall. Dr. Menard read the images in real time and found blood in the ventricles of the boy’s brain. "There were indications that it was a deep brain injury, which can have devastating consequences, he said.
Zack’s nurses inserted an IV, and Dr. Menard sedated Zack and inserted a tube into his trachea to ensure that Zack would not lose the ability to breathe if the bleeding progressed rapidly. Four Webster paramedics stood by. As soon as Zack was stabilized, they rushed him to UMass Memorial Medical Center, where a neurosurgeon awaited.
"We were only in the Webster ER for a little over 30 minutes, but it was the most anxious moments of my life," said Diane. "I realized Zack’s life was in danger, and all I remember saying was, 'Please save my boy!'"
"During times of trauma like this, it is critical that we are there for the family as well as the patient," said Leah. "I made sure I communicated with the parents and assured them we were doing all we could."
Moving Ahead at UMass
In the UMass ER, physicians performed a ventriculostomy, a procedure in which they drilled two holes into Zack’s brain to drain blood from the ventricles. Zack was then taken to the ICU, where he remained for 16 days.
The Hanleys learned that Zack had suffered a rupture of an aneurysm (an abnormal widening or ballooning of a portion of an artery due to weakness in the wall of the blood vessel). Physicians also reported that Zack had a condition known as an arterial venous malformation (AVM), which means that Zack had a nest of malformed blood vessels in his brain that was likely awaiting rupture since birth.
"In light of these circumstances, it is astounding that Zack is doing as well as he is," said Dr. Menard. "Head bleeds like this are fortunately rare in children, but they frequently are catastrophic. That Zack has no neurological deficits is a testament to his parents' immediate action, to the exceptional work of our nurses, CT tech, radiologist, and the Webster paramedics, who all cooperated to get him diagnosed, stabilized, and transferred as rapidly as possible, and to the UMass staff that intervened immediately upon his arrival."
During Zack’s hospital stay at UMASS, Dr. Menard and Leah arrived for a visit. "They came here on their own time just to check on Zack," said Diane. "They are, without question, the two most caring and attentive healthcare professionals I have ever dealt with!"
Back Home and Beyond
Finally, Zack was discharged from UMass and returned home. Meanwhile, Dr. Menard and Leah have stayed involved on a personal level. They attended a benefit dinner to help Zack’s parents pay for unexpected medial bills.
Dr. Menard and Leah also attended the March 16th kickoff of the Harrington’s Capital Campaign at Webster to raise funds for the Harrington HealthCare at Hubbard Emergency Department (http://www.harringtonhospital.org/community_support/strengthening_our_future). At the event, John said, "The hardest thing for a parent is not knowing what is going to happen to your child. The Harrington ER in Webster helped to save Zack’s life, and hopefully it will save many more lives in the years to come."
The Hanleys know Zack faces a long road to recovery, including proton beam surgery at MGH, in which radiation therapy is used to directly target the AVM.
Looking back, Diane provides perspective: "We appreciate all the great care we have received along this journey, and it all starts with the ER. If Dr. Menard and Leah weren’t so exceptional, we wouldn’t be talking about Zack’s future."
Dr. Menard added, "Every day at our Emergency Department in Webster, we need to be ready for life-threatening emergencies. We’ve been doing as well as we can, but, with better resources, we can do much more. We need more beds, more space, more patient privacy, and we need to update our equipment. The Capital Campaign will enable us to continue to do what we’ve been doing and to do it better."