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I Thought I Was Going to Lose Him

At 6 months old, Quinn Ossanna was home with his grandparents when he started vomiting and quit breathing. Fearing he was having a seizure, he was rushed by ambulance to the emergency room at Avera St. Luke’s Hospital in Aberdeen.

“I thought I was going to lose him,” his mother Sarah Ossanna recalls of the incident. “It was terrifying.”

At birth, Quinn had been diagnosed with congenital cataracts and had low vision. While this can be a sign of a larger disorder, doctors had found no other issues with Quinn’s health at the time.

Quinn’s family medicine physician, Dr. David Wachs, met him in the emergency room where he was given medication to stop the seizure and an antibiotic in case he had an infection. Stopping a seizure quickly is important because lack of oxygen to the brain can cause brain damage.

Meanwhile, a CT scan indicated that Quinn had suffered a stroke. While Avera St. Luke’s emergency room routinely handles seizures, Quinn’s episodes of not breathing and his background led Dr. Wachs to seek out a specialist.


"I thought I was going to lose him," his mother Sarah Ossanna recalls of the incident. "It was terrifying."


“Now we have a baby, possibly he’s had a stroke, he’s having seizures and not breathing. We needed help,” Dr. Wachs recalled.

A call for help

Dr. Wachs called a pediatric intensive care doctor at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center to discuss Quinn’s symptoms and plans were made to transfer him via a fixed-wing flight.

While in Sioux Falls, Quinn saw a host of specialists, including a pediatric neurosurgeon, pediatric pulmonologist and a geneticist.

It was originally feared that Quinn had Lowe syndrome, which is sometimes associated with congenital cataracts. While genetic testing was done in Sioux Falls for a possible diagnosis, it took six to eight weeks to receive the results.

“That created a lot of anxiety and worries,” Dr. Wachs said. “If he truly had Lowe syndrome, then he’s not going to live very long and have all kinds of problems.”

Because doctors feared Quinn might have Lowe syndrome, and due to the trouble he was having breathing, they prepared Sarah for the possible outcomes. Doctors said he may not live long or he could have significant brain damage and developmental delays.

A tough decision

She was faced with a grueling dilemma — what did she want doctors to do if Quinn stopped breathing again?

“I decided, in my opinion, as his mom I didn’t want him to suffer like that,” Sarah said. “If he would have quit breathing again, I wouldn’t have him with me today. It was a terrible decision to make.”

But Quinn did make it through the night. And he made it through another day. After about a week in Sioux Falls, his team of doctors said he could go home.

Still awaiting test results, they gave Sarah a heart monitor with an alarm so she knew if he stopped breathing in the night.

“I thought I was coming home to plan a funeral for a baby, was what was going through my head, and just praying,” Sarah said.

But within days of arriving home, Quinn started crawling and moving around again, Sarah said. Weeks later, Quinn’s genetic testing came back and doctors learned he didn’t have Lowe syndrome. Instead, he had suffered a stroke while Sarah was pregnant with him, which caused the seizure. Typically, if a baby has a stroke in utero, a seizure will occur shortly after birth.

‘I smile every time I look at him’

Today, Quinn is on anti-seizure medication and he hasn’t had a seizure in almost three years. Though he does have some developmental delays and vision problems, he is doing well.


"He is good, funny and active and pretty much an average 8-year-old boy," she said.


“He is good, funny and active and pretty much an average 8-year-old boy,” she said.

Dr. Wachs said Quinn’s case is an example of the resilience babies have and the importance of aggressive treatment.

The Avera network offered peace of mind that Quinn was getting the care he needed.

“It’s always comforting to know that we have an emergency room that we can stabilize everything here and have our consultation so close by at Avera McKennan with our subspecialists,” Dr. Wachs said. “At that time they were available by phone, and now they are available by video.”

While Quinn’s diagnosis took time, Sarah credits the doctors at Avera with saving his life.

“I smile every time I look at him. I don’t take anything for granted. I learned that it can happen in a second,” she said. “I thank Avera for everything they did. Dr. Wachs, he and Quinn have a special bond.”


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Quinn Ossanna, 8, in his Cub Scouts uniform this year.

Sarah Ossanna cuddles with her son Quinn shortly after his feeding tubes were taken out. At 6 months, Quinn suffered a stroke and was hospitalized for several days.