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Sarah, 15

Williamsburg | Services: Nephrology, Emergency Medicine, and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU)

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When Angela Whitehead came home one morning this spring after working the night shift, she found her 15-year-old daughter, Sarah, lying on the kitchen floor, unable to say anything other than "mom."

"As best we can determine, Sarah had been there for about four hours," Angela says. "She doesn't remember getting there, and she was very disoriented when I found her."

In critical condition, Sarah was transported from her local hospital in Williamsburg to the Pediatric Emergency Room at Children's Hospital of Richmond (CHoR). Less than six hours after her mother found her, she was admitted to CHoR's Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and diagnosed with diabetic ketoacidosis and secondary kidney failure.

"Sarah was experiencing the effects of undiagnosed new onset diabetes," explains Tim Bunchman, MD, Professor and Chief, Division of Pediatric Nephrology, CHoR. "At that point, her brain was at risk, and we had to slowly correct the acid level in her blood through an extended period of dialysis to reduce the chance of further damage. Because her brain was being affected by the acid already, she also couldn't control her breathing."

To address these concerns, Sarah was placed on a ventilator to regulate her breathing and went through continuous dialysis for forty-eight hours. She was unconscious for four days, with her mom and dad, Mack, by her side.

"Thanks to the hospital's expansion of the Pediatric Nephrology Program, which specializes in the treatment of kidney disease, Sarah was able to receive this care without needing to travel further from home," Dr. Bunchman says.

After two weeks at the hospital, Sarah and her family returned home with a positive prognosis and a clear understanding of how to manage her diabetes. "Sarah has been great at managing her diabetes since we got her back home," Angela says. "She's been very responsible and mindful of sticking to the plan the doctors outlined."

"One of the worst parts was that I missed my spring break," Sarah says with a laugh. "I was admitted to the hospital the first day of vacation."

Sarah finished her tenth grade school year with home bound instruction and plans to return to school in the fall. "I saw her once after discharge," says Dr. Bunchman, "to check for any possible long-term kidney damage, but nothing presented itself. She can get back to her life."

"Everybody at the hospital was wonderful," Angela says. "They laughed with us, prayed with us, and cried with us. We couldn't have asked for better care."

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