Kara McGuffee of Tylertown and her obstetrician, Dr. Rachael Morris, look over the images from unborn son Kade's latest sonogram at the Center for Maternal and Fetal Care.
Kara McGuffee of Tylertown and Dr. Rachael Morris, assistant professor of ob-gyn, examine images from McGuffee's preborn son Kade's latest sonogram at the Center for Maternal and Fetal Care.
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Maternal Fetal Medicine brings care team together for mothers, babies

Published on Monday, June 17, 2019

By: Annie Oeth, aoeth@umc.edu

Kara McGuffee was in love with her son’s face from first sight.

“Look at his hair,” she said to her obstetrician, Dr. Rachael Morris of the University of Mississippi Medical Center. “And those eyes!”

Through the diagnostic imaging of 3-D and 4-D ultrasound, multivessel Doppler, fetal MRIs and fetal echocardiograms, Morris and fetal cardiologist Dr. Jennifer Shores, both members of UMMC’s Center for Maternal and Fetal Care, saw more than Harper Kade McGuffee’s handsome features before he was born. They saw the inner workings of his heart.

Kara, of Tylertown, first came to UMMC for her own risks, having had preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening condition, during previous pregnancies. While pregnant with Kade, she and husband Adam learned that their son has a mosaic form of Down syndrome and a congenital heart defect.

Patient Kara McGuffee of Tylertown talks with her obstetrician Dr. Rachael Morris at UMMC's Center for Maternal and Fetal Care.
McGuffee talks with Morris during an April 30 visit. Her son was born May 20.

The McGuffees welcomed Kade into the world May 20, and after about a week in neonatal intensive care, he was able to go home with his family.

UMMC has “taken care of setting up every aspect of care for us to follow up with after our return home,” Kara said. “From starting us with nutrition, cardiology, endocrinology, early intervention, genetics and setting up a primary pediatrician, they have really taken the very best care of our baby. We are so thankful to have had the benefit of the expertise provided by the UMMC team.”

At the Center for Maternal and Fetal Care, experts who treat mothers with risk factors including high blood pressure and diabetes, and neonatal and pediatric subspecialists who care for the most medically fragile babies in the state work together for the best outcomes for mothers and their newborns. UMMC is reaching out to south Mississippi families by offering care from Dr. Tony Wen, director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, and obstetrician-gynecologist and maternal-fetal medicine specialist Dr. James Bofill at the Children’s of Mississippi specialty clinic in Biloxi.

The care of Kara and Kade both happen at the center, located in Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants on the UMMC campus in Jackson. Morris shares care responsibilities for Kara with her obstetrician in McComb. Shores, director of the Fetal Heart Program at UMMC, is Kade’s fetal cardiologist.

“After confirming the heart defect, the fetal cardiologists have co-managed with us,” said Morris. “Kara has returned monthly for ultrasound surveillance of the heart defect and to monitor Kade’s growth.”

Adam and Kara McGuffee welcome their family's new member, Kade.
Adam and Kara McGuffee welcome their family's newest member, Kade.

For families such as the McGuffees, the care team comes together at the Center for Maternal and Fetal Care, Bofill said.

“Once a woman’s obstetrician has referred her to us, our experts work together for what’s best for the mother and the baby.”

Kara said the experts at UMMC have helped bring peace of mind during a difficult pregnancy, even taking her to visit the neonatal intensive care unit and having a meeting with Dr. Brian Kogon, chief of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery at Children’s of Mississippi, who will perform Kade’s heart procedure later this year.

“We love the doctors here,” she said. “They are all so kind and personable, and very relatable. They’ve introduced us to everyone who will be caring for me and for Kade.”

Angel Maxell felt the same way about 18 years ago, when she was referred to Shores, who had recently come to UMMC as a fetal and pediatric cardiologist.

Her son, Garrett, was diagnosed with hypoplastic right heart syndrome. Shores has been his cardiologist ever since.

“Dr. Shores is an excellent doctor, and she means the world to us,” Maxwell said. “She not only has the knowledge and expertise, but she truly cares about her patients. Garrett was her first fetal patient upon coming to Mississippi, and we have seen her ever since.”

Dr. Jennifer Shores has been Garrett Maxwell's cardiologist since before his birth. He was her first patient at UMMC.
Dr. Jennifer Shores has been Garrett Maxwell's cardiologist since before his birth. He was her first patient at UMMC.

Born at the healthy weight of 8 pounds, 2 ounces, Garrett had two surgeries to correct his congenital heart anomalies, at 6 months and 3 years old, and he hasn’t slowed down since, Maxwell said.

“He has continued to excel in the classroom.  Garrett just graduated from West Lincoln High in the top 10 of his class,” she said. “He was even voted Mr. West Lincoln by his peers.”

“Baseball is his passion,” his mother said. “Garrett has been a part of several All-Star teams as a youth and even won a state title in the Babe Ruth league. He has been a starting player on the baseball team since his sophomore year. He has received the Coach’s Award and was named to the All-District team last year.”

Congenital heart conditions such as Garrett’s and Kade’s can be detected in utero, but only if mothers have access to ultrasound technology and expertise.

“We are only finding about 26 percent of congenital heart disease before birth in Mississippi,” Bofill said. “We could improve that rate if more women got the maternal-fetal care needed.”

Expansion of maternal-fetal medicine and fetal cardiology is needed, Shores said. “Mississippi has one of the lowest fetal cardiac detection rates in the country.”

Construction of a seven-story pediatric expansion at the Medical Center will boost the level of care available to newborns.

The expansion will include 88 private neonatal intensive care rooms, allowing parents to stay with their babies during their recovery. There will also be additional space for pediatric intensive care and surgical suites, as well as an imaging center designed for children, including newborns. Outpatient specialty care will have a new home there, as will the Children’s Heart Center.

“There is a huge need for maternal-fetal medicine in Mississippi,” Shores said, “and with the new state-of-the-art tower, we will have the potential for treating even more patients.”