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patient story

Saige Cotterman

a grateful heart: baby girl Saige fights the odds

Saige Cotterman was just 5 months old at a Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) appointment when clinic workers noticed that she wasn’t growing. In fact, she was losing weight - about a half a pound over a three month period. Her mother Mackenzie White sensed something more was wrong and decided to take her to the Dayton Children's emergency department.

It was there that pediatric emergency medicine specialist Dr. Lakshmi Vemuru detected a murmur when listening to Saige’s heart, something that had not been discovered previously. Saige underwent an echocardiogram to capture detailed images of her heart. After thorough review, pediatric cardiologist Dr. Christopher Bugnitz diagnosed her with severe mitral valve disease.

“Her mitral valve was severely leaky and did not open well,” said Dr. Bugnitz. “This caused her heart to work harder and caused fluid to back up into her lungs, making it difficult for her to breath. Congenital mitral valve lesions are rare and affect only five out of 100,000 people in the general population. Saige is certainly a unique baby.”

Saige’s mother Mackenzie is grateful she followed her instinct to bring her baby to Dayton Children’s. “If it wasn’t for Dayton Children’s emergency department and Dr. Bugnitz, we would have never known that Saige had this serious heart condition. Had we waited, it could have been a disaster.”

Through the help of Dayton Children's transport team, Saige was taken to Nationwide Children’s Hospital where she received a mitral valve replacement. After recovering, she returned home and continued her care under Dr. Bugnitz.

“We had a great initial experience at Dayton Children’s and wanted Saige to continue care here. Plus, it’s close to home,” said Mackenzie. “We love Dr. Bugnitz. You can tell this is more than a job for him, he’s very passionate and loves Saige. She responds to him so well.”

Fast forward to this month, Saige celebrated her first birthday on February 10 along with her family, friends, and support network. “Some people said our daughter might not make it to her first birthday and look at her now!” said Mackenzie. “We are forever grateful to Dayton Children’s and Dr. Bugnitz for saving our little girl.”