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Billings family endures baby daughter's battle with rare genetic heart syndrome

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Posted at 6:17 PM, Oct 10, 2023

BILLINGS — Baby Olive Heringer has been to more hospitals than most at eight months old. She was diagnosed with long QT syndrome before she was even born.

Now her parents, Katria and Tanner Heringer are sharing her story, hoping it can save lives.

The Haringers initially received their prenatal care at St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings.

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"I was 32 weeks pregnant. During my ultrasound, they noticed her heart rate was very, very low. It was 56 heartbeats per minute,” said Katria at her home on the West End on Tuesday.

“The doctor just came in and said you need to go to the ER as soon as possible," Tanner said.

St. Vincent Healthcare referred the Heringers to Children's Hospital Colorado, and they made the trip to Denver before Olive was born.

“I went in and we met with Dr. Bettina Cuneo. She did an echocardiogram and told us that Olive has long QT syndrome,” said Katria.

Olive was diagnosed with long QT syndrome type 2. The disorder causes irregular heart rhythms, and when untreated, can lead to cardiac arrest.

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"Usually long QT is inherited, and neither Tanner or I have long QT and we’re not carriers of it. This was a mutation in Olive that just happened,” Katria said.

“It’s very rare for somebody to be as affected as Olive is. We’re talking less than one in 10,000, less than one in a 100,000,” said Dr. Dustin Nash, a pediatric electrophysiologist at Children's Hospital Colorado.

Nash said Olive's syndrome is incurable but treatable. After she was born and big enough, she had a small pacemaker called an ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator) implanted in her abdomen.

“That computer, through some wires that sit on the surface of the heart, is just watching all the time to ask the question, is this a normal heart rhythm? And at any point, if it detects something abnormal, it starts to record,” Nash said.

Nash can monitor Olive's heart rate from Denver.

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“If it’s really abnormal, it’s linked up to a little base at her house. It’ll actually send the information to that base and transmits it to us and we get information about it,” said Nash.

"As far as we know, she was the smallest baby to come out of Denver, to get an ICD," Tanner said.

Nash said that now, Olive's on track where she needs to be.

“But thankfully she had a very boring stay with us. And by that, what I mean is in terms of best case scenario, never really had a big problem with any abnormal life-threatening heart rhythms,” Nash said.

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Olive is also monitored by pediatric cardiologist Dr. Jeremy Archer at Billings Clinic.

The Heringers spent five months at Children's Hospital Colorado, a place they say they owe everything to.

“Just to have her here is truly amazing. All of our prayers were answered, she was able to come home and live her normal, happy life,” said Katria.