Ellis (1)

Young Girl’s Life Saved Thanks to Doctor’s Persistence

Ellis (1)During a routine well-child checkup at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center, a doctor’s attentiveness proved critical for an 11-year-old. Sarah Katzenberger, of Brainerd, is highly grateful to Dr. Monica Goodwin for her persistence and intervention, which led to the identification of a rare congenital heart defect and ultimately saved her daughter Ellis’s life.

When Ellis broke her leg while sledding at a friend’s house, she was treated in the ER, where the doctor noticed her blood pressure was very high but attributed it to the pain. About nine weeks after the fracture, Sarah brought Ellis to the clinic for a well-child checkup with Dr. Monica Goodwin, who delivered Ellis and has been her doctor since. While treating Ellis, Dr. Goodwin detected she still had unusually high blood pressure. She was concerned and sent them home with a cuff to monitor her blood pressure. Because Ellis’s blood pressure remained high, Dr. Goodwin ordered bloodwork and an ultrasound to determine what was happening. All the tests returned normal, and they continued with their lives. A few weeks later, Dr. Goodwin checked in with them and learned Ellis still had high blood pressure. She knew something was wrong and referred Ellis to a University of Minnesota pediatric specialist. Ellis went through a gauntlet of tests that returned clear. However, continuous monitoring of blood pressure showed she was hypertensive, and eventually, Ellis had an echocardiogram.

Nine months after their first encounter with hypertension, the echocardiogram showed that Ellis had a rare congenital heart defect, a discrete aortic coarctation. They were immediately referred to pediatric cardiology and spent two days undergoing more tests and scans and meeting with a team of cardiologists who helped them determine the next steps.

Ellis’s coarctation required surgery, which she underwent just eight weeks after her diagnosis. The early detection meant Ellis’s heart was not damaged. Within a few months, her blood pressure stabilized, and her cardiology check-ups have been highly optimistic.

Ellis will require another operation in a few years, but she should be able to continue doing all she loves without limitations. Sarah said had Ellis’s condition gone on longer; she easily could have been a statistic—a teenager who collapsed on the athletic field, a young woman who presented in the ER with chest pains and trouble breathing, or worse and most terrifying, a mid-life woman with an undiagnosed heart defect discovered when it was too late.

Sarah and her family are so grateful for Dr. Goodwin and her relentlessness in finding answers. Because Dr. Goodwin followed her intuition, Ellis will continue to live a long, healthy life with minimal setbacks.