Wolfson Children's Terry Heart Institute helps St. Johns County middle schooler get back in rhythm

Seizure leads to rare heart condition diagnosis, defibrillator, for 10-year-old.

Jacksonville, FL -

During the first day of marine science summer camp in St. Augustine, Bryn Jenkins and her campmates learned how to perform CPR, recognize if someone is in distress and what to do if you see someone having a seizure. It was a lesson that possibly saved Bryn's life when she fainted and had a seizure while swimming in the pool later that day.

"I only remember a few seconds before I fainted in the water. Everything started going black," the 10-year-old St. Johns County resident said.

Bryn's campmate, Mallori, put those safety lessons into practice by noticing something wasn't right. Mallori quickly pulled her to the surface and Bryn regained consciousness. After being notified of what had happened, Bryn’s mom, Nicole Jenkins, instructed first responders to transport Bryn to the Wolfson Children’s Hospital Emergency Center at Baptist Medical Center South. Nicole knew the importance of kids being treated by pediatric emergency physicians after spending years with Baptist Health as a content creator for the Wolfson Children's Hospital website.

A rare diagnosis

Brian Gilligan, MD, medical director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at the Wolfson Children’s Emergency Center at Baptist South, informed Bryn's parents that she likely had long QT syndrome, a heart rhythm disorder that can cause fast, chaotic heartbeats. The condition causes the heart's electrical system to take longer than usual to recharge between beats and can lead to fainting and seizures.

"Her heart rate was all over the place. Even with her sitting still, it would go down to 35 beats per minute and then up to 120. It's crazy to know her heart has probably been doing that her whole life without us knowing," Nicole said.

That evening, Bryn was transported to Wolfson Children's Hospital by Kids Kare helicopter and admitted to the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) in the Borowy Family Children's Critical Care Tower. An electrocardiogram (EKG) and genetic testing confirmed the diagnosis of long QT syndrome.

Getting back into rhythm

Bryn remained in the CVICU for observation for 10 days before undergoing a procedure to receive an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, a life-saving device that acts as a pacemaker and a defibrillator to fix fast, abnormal heart rhythm.

Wolfson Children's C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry Heart Institute is the only program in Jacksonville that provides a full range of cardiac services for adults and children like Bryn with congenital heart disorders. This includes outpatient evaluation of murmurs, detection of complex heart defects in fetal life and imaging and non-surgical procedures to diagnose and treat heart conditions.

"Pediatric electrophysiologists and interventional cardiologists associated with the Terry Heart Institute perform procedures on children with significant heart conditions and adults who need surgical correction of defects that they were born with. Following cardiac procedures, these patients are cared for in the CVICU, under the supervision of pediatric cardiac intensive care physicians specially trained in managing congenital heart defects," said Rajesh Shenoy, MD, a fetal and pediatric cardiologist and medical director of the Wolfson Children's Terry Heart Institute.

"The care that Bryn received exemplifies the advanced care that the Jacksonville community can expect from their children's hospital."

Feeling like herself

Along with starting lifelong medication to help keep her heart rate stable, Bryn had to wear an arm sling for several weeks after surgery to reduce movement around her incision. While activities like sports and physical education classes are on hold, Bryn successfully started her first year of middle school this fall and feels like herself again.

"I feel totally fine and back to normal," she said.

Bryn will continue yearly visits with the [electrophysiology team] at the Terry Heart Institute to monitor her progress. Bryn and her family remain grateful for the treatment and care she received so close to home at Wolfson Children's.

Physicians providing care at Wolfson Children’s Hospital are not employees nor agents of the hospital. Services at Wolfson Children’s Hospital are provided primarily by pediatric physician specialists employed by Nemours Children’s Health, Jacksonville, University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville, Baptist Specialty Physicians, Inc., and Emergency Resources Group.