While attending marine science summer camp in St. Augustine, Bryn Jenkins and her campmates learned some valuable lessons on the very first day: how to conduct CPR, how to determine if someone is in distress, and what to look for and do if you spot a person having a seizure. Little did they know, these crucial pieces of knowledge were what would soon potentially be what saved Bryn’s life. Later that same day at camp, Bryn fainted and had a seizure while swimming in the pool.
“I only remember a few seconds before I fainted in the water. Everything started going black,” recalled the 10-year-old St. Johns County resident.
Bryn’s campmate, Mallory, put what she learned into practice by noticing that something was out of the norm and acting quickly. Mallory immediately pulled Bryn to the water’s surface, and she regained consciousness. Upon finding out what had happened, Bryn’s mom, Nicole Jenkins, told first responders to transport Bryn to the Wolfson Children’s Hospital Emergency Center at Baptist Medical Center South. After years spent at Baptist Health as a content creator for the Wolfson Children’s Hospital website, Nicole understood the importance of children getting treatment from emergency physicians who are well-trained in pediatrics.
A surprising heart diagnosis
Brian Gilligan, MD, medical director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at the Wolfson Children’s Emergency Center at Baptist South, told Bryn’s parents that their daughter most likely had long QT syndrome, a heart rhythm disorder that causes fast, chaotic heartbeats. As a result of the condition, the heart’s electrical system can take longer than usual to recharge between beats, which may lead to seizures and fainting.
“Her heart rate was all over the place,” Nicole said. “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.”
That evening, Bryn was taken to Wolfson Children’s Hospital via 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 the heart healthy
Bryn spent 10 days in the CVICU for observation before undergoing a medical procedure to get an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator — a life-saving device that acts as both a pacemaker and a defibrillator to fix fast, abnormal heart rhythm.
Luckily for kids like Bryn who have congenital heart disorders, 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. These services include outpatient evaluation of heart murmurs, detection of complex heart defects in fetal life, and imaging and non-surgical procedures to diagnose and treat various 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.”
Back in the groove
Bryn wore an arm sling for many weeks post-surgery to reduce movement around her surgical incision and also began taking lifelong medication that will help keep her heart rate stable. Although activities like sports (including swimming) and physical education classes are paused for the time being, Bryn did have a successful start to her first year of middle school this fall and is finally feeling like herself.
“I feel totally fine and back to normal,” she shared.
To monitor her progress, Bryn will continue annual appointments with the electrophysiology team at the Terry Heart Institute. The 10-year-old and her family continue to be thankful for the life-saving treatment and quality care she received so close to home at Wolfson Children’s.
About the Wolfson Children’s Challenge
Get ready, get set… GO! On Saturday, January 27, 2024, runners across our region will come together to raise money at the 15th annual Wolfson Children’s Challenge. Featuring both team and individual races for runners of all skill levels, the family-friendly event aims to raise $125,000 for Wolfson Children’s Rehabilitation, a unique kids’ health resource with clinics throughout Northeast Florida and South Georgia.
With a brand-new location this year at the Nocatee Station Field in St. Johns County, the Wolfson Children’s Challenge will be better than ever, featuring ample space and parking, in addition to on-site food and a kids’ zone with a variety of vendors.
Every year, the Wolfson Children’s Challenge honors 55 current and former patients of all ages — like Bryn, above — who represent the wide range of conditions treated at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. Known as the “Wolfson 55,” each child and family has a unique story to tell about the strength and hope it takes to fight a health battle.
Those who wish to show their support can be part of the event by signing up to be a sponsor, organizing a relay team, or competing in one of the following challenges: 55K Ultra, 55K Relay, 30K Run, 1-Mile Fun Run. To register for a run, to donate, or to learn more, visit wolfsonchildrenschallenge.com.