TRAVELING DURING PREGNANCY AND WITH THE BABY
We may travel out of state for the surgeries how does that work?
Usually, parents travel to the hospital where they will deliver and have the surgeries a few weeks prior to the due date. Since the baby is fine in utero, traveling at this time is usually safe. Another option, if the hospital is not too far away, is to deliver the baby near your home and then have the baby transported (via ambulance or medical helicopter) to the hospital where the baby will have his surgeries. There are additional risks of transporting the baby (such as if he needs surgery right away, the risk of traveling, etc.) so decide if that is the best option for you. In addition, the mother would need to stay at the delivering hospital for a period of time before being able to get to the surgical hospital, and so would be separated from the baby for a period of time. Talk with the surgeon to see what is best for your situation. It is best to stay with the same surgeon and hospital if possible, for subsequent surgeries since they will be familiar with your child's condition. So, if you plan on traveling for the Norwood, plan on traveling for the next two surgeries as well. However, it is not necessary to do so, and if you have a local hospital that does the surgeries, you may be able to go to them for the 2nd and 3rd surgeries, or if the baby has an emergency once at home.
What about flying while pregnant, and flying with the baby?
If you are traveling to a hospital to deliver and have surgery, talk with your doctor about the safest time for you to travel while pregnant. Often, flying a few weeks prior to your due date is fine. You may need a doctor's note to show to the airline. On your return trip you'll have another little bundle with you the baby! They are usually fine to fly after the Norwood procedure, although some surgeons require that you have oxygen on the plane to help with the baby's oxygen level. When flying at altitudes, everyone's oxygen levels drop, and after the Norwood, a baby's oxygen level may only be 70% or even less (compared with normal levels of 100%). If the baby's oxygen level drops too low, it can be very serious or even fatal. Check with the surgeon about any provisions for flying while pregnant and with the baby following the Norwood. Oxygen can be obtained through most airlines by reserving it a week or two in advance, and paying a fee. They do not allow you to bring your own oxygen on board. Call the airlines or talk with the hospital social worker for more information
What about traveling to, or living at a high altitude?
Because oxygen levels in the body drop at altitude, this can be a serious problem for babies who have had the 3-stage procedure. Babies can sometimes have oxygen levels as low as 70% or lower after the Norwood and a further drop could be very serious. After the second surgery, oxygen levels usually improve, and after the final stage, oxygen levels may be near normal, so altitude is less of a worry. If you live at altitude, or plan to travel with altitude, always check with your cardiologist or surgeon to see if it is safe to do so first. Children with heart transplants do not usually have lower oxygen levels, and so altitude is not usually a problem for them, but check with your doctors to be sure. Many hospitals whose patient population live at high altitude may offer transplants more often that performing the 3-stage surgeries.