Leonardo Osorio McGeehan (centre) with his mother Martina McGeehan and Dr Kesava Ananth Ramakrishnan at Burjeel Medical City in Abu Dhabi Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: An 11-year-old was saved by his family, residents and healthcare workers after suffering a cardiac arrest in the swimming pool of his residential tower in Abu Dhabi.

Leonardo Osorio McGeehan, who is Scottish-Mexican, has been successfully treated for a rare congenital heart condition at Burjeel Medical City in Abu Dhabi.

Leonardo first suffered a cardiac arrest while swimming in the pool at his building. His mother immediately performed CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitatio) before calling for help.

“We were tossing a ball in the pool when my son said he was not feeling well and started going under the water. With the help of my daughter and a couple at the pool, we got him out of the water. He was struggling to breathe, and his eyes were rolling back. It seemed like he was having a seizure. I immediately started performing CPR, and called the police to tell them my son was not breathing and had lost consciousness,” said his mom Martina McGeehan, a British expat who has lived in the UAE for five years.

McGeehan had previous training as a physical therapist and was able to continue performing chest compressions until the police and ambulance arrived.

“By then, people from the building had gathered around and were helping us out,” Martina said.

Medical support

The paramedics took over CPR from McGeehan, and used a defibrillator to shock Leonardo and stabilise his airway on the way to the hospital. McGeehan was escorted to the hospital by the police.

At the hospital, Leonardo was intubated within the intensive care unit. Further investigations revealed the boy had suffered two cardiac arrests due to a congenital heart defect called Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome. The condition is caused by an abnormality in the heart’s electrical pathways. Following the diagnosis, he was shifted to Burjeel Medical City.

Rare disease

“Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome is a fairly rare disorder that affects [up tp three] in 1,000 people worldwide. In simple terms, the patient had an extra piece of muscle inside his heart that caused abnormal electricity. Children with this syndrome usually present with palpitations, and it is very rare for such patients to suffer a cardiac arrest. In my career spanning over 20 years, this is only the second case I have seen where a patient with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome suffered a cardiac arrest,” said Dr Christopher Duke, consultant pediatric cardiologist at the hospital.

The doctor, who is an expert in paediatric electrophysiology, said a decision was made to perform a paediatric radiofrequency ablation to treat the condition.

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Special arrangements

The hospital made special preparations to get the operation theatre ready, and put together a multidisciplinary team for the procedure comprising Dr Jayakeerthi Yoganarasimha Rao, cardiology, electrophysiology and heart failure consultant; Dr Kesava Ananth Ramakrishnan, paediatric intensive care unit consultant; Dr Taj Mohammed Fiyaz Chowdhry, thoracic surgeon and consultant; and Dr Imthiaz Ahamed Manoly, cardiac surgery consultant.

Leonardo with his mum and the medical team at Burjeel Medical City Image Credit: Supplied

“In terms of capabilities and expertise, Burjeel Medical City is equipped to offer complex care to pediatric patients. We have a cath lab with equipment for electrophysiological studies for cases like these. As this patient in the paediatric ICU needed complex care, we organised all the support services needed, and coordinated with multiple specialties ahead of the procedure. We had the surgical, pediatric ICU, and pediatric ECMO teams on standby to deal with any potential complications during the procedure,” Dr Ramakrishnan said.

The procedure took two hours, after which Leonardo recovered well. According to Dr Duke, Leonardo is cured of the congenital condition, but needs regular monitoring.

Grateful mother

McGeehan is grateful to everyone who came to her aid.

“My son is a strong swimmer and was perfectly healthy till this incident. So, when he started going down into the water, I knew it was not a typical drowning. My basic knowledge of CPR came in handy, although I never thought I would use what I learnt on my own son. He would not be alive today if not for all the help we had. The people at our building, the Abu Dhabi police, the paramedics, and the doctors and nurses, they all helped save his life,” said McGeehan said.

“Leonardo is doing very well now. We are overawed at the service we received from Dr Duke and the team at Burjeel Medical City. The speed at which they put together the team was unbelievable.”