Guided from the Heart

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Published on July 01, 2020

Guided from the Heart

Photo of the Grubbs familyPhoto of the Grubbs familyPIH Health patient, Carly Grubbs, welcomed Virgil Albert Grubbs III into the world despite her complications due to cardiac issues.

Multidisciplinary Team Expertly Manages High-Risk Pregnancy for Cardiac Patient

Carly Grubbs, a 30-year-old teacher, has lived with cardiac issues her entire life. She was born with an eight millimeter hole in her heart, which required her to have Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) surgery when she was just 12-months-old.

Unfortunately, scar tissue from the surgery caused challenges when Carly was a teenager. She would have periodic and unexpected episodes of nausea, immediately followed by passing out (referred to medically as a syncopal episode).

She lived with this complication until August 2018, when PIH Health Cardiologist Sudhaker Nayak MD referred Carly to a heart specialist at a local academic medical center, who determined Carly’s episodes were caused by life-threatening arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythm). At the time of the diagnosis, Carly was four months pregnant with her first child, but due to the severity of her condition, she had a permanent pacemaker implanted immediately.

At the same time, Carly was receiving medical care from PIH Health Obstetrician Sacha Kang Chou MD. Because Carly’s pregnancy was considered high-risk, the situation became very complex.

“While a pregnant patient with a pacemaker has a high probability of delivering without problems, it’s always prudent to monitor the patient for complications closely, and be aware of any maternal or fetal issues that arise,” said Dr. Kang.

The entire PIH Health team took action to address Carly’s unique needs. Dr. Kang collaborated with Dr. Nayak, as well as Gerald Beckham MD, PIH Health cardiologist, and the cardiology specialist from the academic medical center to devise an intricate plan for Carly’s labor and delivery experience, which at the time was just five months away.

In January 2019, when Carly was induced for labor at PIH Health Whittier Hospital, the team was ready with a comprehensive plan in place. They knew just what to do to provide the best and safest care for Carly and her baby.

“Carly required continuous cardiac rhythm monitoring at the bedside by an Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) certified nurse throughout her labor and 24 hours post-delivery,” said PIH Health cardiac registered nurse Christina Jahns. “We were prepared with emergent cardiac medications that may have been required, and a crash cart with all life-sustaining treatment was close by, if needed. Dr. Beckham checked on Carly frequently, and ran through many scenarios with our team to prepare for Carly’s delivery.”

Fortunately, Carly’s labor and delivery went smoothly. After several hours, Obstetrician Marc Melnik MD delivered Carly’s baby—a healthy boy.

The successful outcome was definitely a team. “The doctors and nurses were all so prepared and caring—they really worked as a team,” said Carly. “They communicated well, and everyone knew the plan. Most importantly, they showed true concern about my heart and the baby’s heart, and had our best interests in mind the whole time.”

“They did an amazing job throughout my entire pregnancy and delivery so much so, that I feel comfortable having more babies in the future,” she added. “Despite the complications, I still look back on this incredible labor and delivery experience with awe. Because the team was so prepared, I didn’t need to stress at all. I could just sit back and enjoy the life-changing miracle of welcoming my son into the world.”

For more information about cardiology care or labor and delivery services, visit

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.