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KIDS WITH COURAGE: Xander Martin

Published: May. 25, 2022 at 10:24 PM CDT
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ST. FRANCIS, Minn. -- KTTC is honored to introduce viewers monthly to some of the youngest among us, facing the unthinkable with bravery and optimism. In our 21st “Kids With Courage” segment, Caitlin Alexander introduces us to nearly five-month-old Xander Martin.

He and his parents Zoomed with Caitlin when he was a bit smaller, back in March.

He may act like any other newborn, but in reality, he’s much more.

“He’s a miracle baby,” said his mother Michaela.

12 days old family photo
12 days old family photo(KTTC)

His health battle began before he was even born.

Nic and Michaela were over the moon, expecting their little one.

Things were going smoothly until Michaela went in for a growth scan around 32 weeks.

“His heart rate was up to 289,” she said. She reports doctors told her Xander was in heart failure and needed to go to the nearest hospital immediately.

Children’s Minnesota experts indicate a normal fetal heart rate is closer to between 110 and 180 beats per minute and varies.

Xander’s heartbeat wasn’t just extremely fast. It wasn’t varying.

“Oh, I panicked,” Nic said. “I went straight to my boss and basically said I’m leaving.”

Doctors diagnosed Xander with Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT), which is an abnormal heart rhythm in which the heart beats very quickly.

It starts in the top chambers of the heart.

Dr. Lisa Howley explained it is a condition has no obvious rule book. She is the director of the Fetal Cardiology Program at the Children’s Heart Clinic within Children’s Minnesota.

“In the case of SVT, you have a little extra pathway that allows you to trip into this very fast microcircuit,” she said.

Xander also had Hydrops Fetalis.

Children’s Minnesota’s website states it’s “a life threatening condition in which abnormal amounts of fluid accumulate in two or more body areas.”

“The big idea there is that in Xander’s case, he was getting very sick. So, if the heart’s not able to fill and inject blood, in a normal fashion, blood starts to back up and so you start to get congestion around in the body. So, you’ll have fluid that starts to develop,” Howley said.

Michaela said doctors presented them with a choice: attempt to deliver their very sick baby early with a lower chance of a positive outcome or attempt to treat in utero.

It was a risk, but experts believed they could be successful.

“They recommended that we do a shot directly into his arm through my abdomen and to get him the medication as fast as we possibly could,” Michaela said.

Plus, Michaela began taking heart medications to get even more help to Xander.

After a few days, Xander began to show signs of improvement.

“So, we went home. We were home for 36 hours or so, went back for that first test, and I was admitted due to having preeclampsia,” Michaela recalled.

Preeclampsia is a complication that includes high blood pressure and other serious concerns.

“It was just kind of the perfect storm,” Michaela said.

What happened next was a lot of monitoring over several days.

Xander’s fluids began to improve, and his heart looked great.

The Martins remember Dr. Howley telling them that if Xander chose to make his debut, he’d be okay.

The next day, he made his move.

“My water broke. So, he heard Dr. Howley and he said, ‘Okay, I’m coming!’” Michaela joked.

Xander went to the NICU and got started on medications.

He didn’t need as much breathing help as doctors thought he would.

He went to the Infant Care Center for a few weeks after that and continued to improve.

Mom and Dad were able to stay with him.

“In total, him and I were in the hospital for 44 days,” Michaela said. She went on to say, “He has achieved and surpassed every expectation that was set for him.”

Dr. Howley agreed but said it’s obvious where Xander’s courage came from.

“I think the person that deserves the courage award is really his mother and his dad who had the faith and trust in us that we could treat their little boy rather than delivering a very, very sick premature baby,” she said.

Xander is still on medications, but the Martins and Dr. Howley hope our Kid With Courage won’t need them after his first birthday.

Xander smiling in his sleep
Xander smiling in his sleep(KTTC)

“The long term picture of SVT of babies either before birth or after birth with SVT is actually very bright,” Dr. Howley said.

For more information on Children’s Minnesota’s Cardiovascular Program, you may click here.

If you know a Kid With Courage Caitlin should know about, email her at kidswithcourage@kttc.com.

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