Pediatric pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a condition in which the arteries of the lungs are plagued with high blood pressure, causing the right side of the heart to work harder in order to push blood through the narrowed arteries of the lungs. This results in an enlarged right ventricle of the heart and leads to heart failure. Brandt and Katie Peterson are no stranger to PH, as they have journeyed through the process with their daughter, Avery, alongside her mother’s family and a barrage of friends and family who have helped support them throughout the treatment process. They never would have imagined that a few years later they would start the process all over again.
In Oct. 2020, Katie’s oldest son, Archer, was diagnosed with asthma, another diagnosis all-too-familiar to the family as it marked the beginning of Avery’s journey with PH. Katie, Archer’s mother and Avery’s stepmother, recalls tearing up at work the day following Archer’s asthma diagnosis. “(I) told my co-workers ‘I don’t think it is PH, but I can’t shake this feeling that this isn’t just asthma.’ ” Her gut feeling that it was something more wasn’t wrong and as she sat in Archer’s pediatrician’s office two weeks later, her fears were confirmed. Archer had an irregular heartbeat; he, like Avery, had PH.
A whirlwind of realizations, emotions and paperwork later, the Peterson’s found themselves at Rochester’s Mayo Clinic a mere three days following the diagnosis beginning Archer’s PH treatments with an IV medication called epoprostenol. The medication has a half-life of two minutes, meaning that once Archer’s body went without the medication for two minutes, his heart could sustain a violent reaction, a pulmonary hypertensive crisis, which could result in his heart stopping altogether. During a lab draw, a seemingly simple procedure, Archer had to go without his medication. His mother timed the procedure, knowing that their safety net was a mere two minutes. After 58 seconds, she had to pick Archer up to console him. That is when Archer’s heart stopped and he coded. “My life stopped for two minutes while I watched my son receive compressions,” shared Katie, who was alone with Archer during the traumatic ordeal. Thankfully, Mayo’s team was able to revive Archer and transfer him to intensive care where he received a higher level of care. Shortly thereafter, Katie was holding Archer and was able to identify that he was going to code again and medical staff was able to prevent this from happening using a fast-acting medication. This prompted a change in Archer’s care regimen, continual administration of medication through an IV, made portable through a backpack containing a pump. The medication has proven to be beneficial for Archer and he has been able to return home without another instance of coding. The entire Peterson family is on high alert, listening for Archer’s pump to alarm, notifying them that it needs to be serviced in order to function properly and keep Archer safe. Katie, who previously worked onsite at LB Broen Home, has transitioned to working from home as someone needs to be readily available to meet Archer’s urgent medical needs, which can present themselves often.
The Peterson family has been met with an outpouring of support from the community from their friends, family and complete strangers alike.
“We have been so graciously blessed by the community, many people that we don’t even know. From our family to yours, thank you everyone for your prayers and gifts. They certainly have helped during this difficult time. I would like everyone to take away one thing from reading this. Please trust your gut. Do not ever hesitate to ask more questions. I had no idea my motherly instinct was so strong. I also had no idea how well I could hold myself during a time of complete and utter despair while watching my son’s small body being resuscitated,” Katie said.
The Peterson’s keep Archer’s Caringbridge website updated to keep those following Archer’s journey informed. The page contains a link to a GoFundMe, the donations being used to install air purification units in their home and fund genetic testing to learn whether their youngest son, Otto, is at risk for PH. (This information is not yet known, as appointments with a geneticist have not yet occurred.) The family would also like to extend their thanks to Dough for Joe, the Isaiah Anderson Memorial Fund, local churches and the Fergus Falls Police Department for providing a memorable Christmas for their family in 2020. To stay updated about Archer and the Peterson family or to make a donation to help cover necessary expenses, visit Archer’s Caringbridge page: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/archerpeterson.