Twelve-year-old becomes first CHOC patient to receive life-saving device

Erin Greaves and her son, Sean.
Sean and his mom, Erin.

Erin Greaves woke to the sound of her son’s gasp and the dogs barking. The pediatric nurse raced to 12-year-old Sean’s room and immediately began performing CPR. When paramedics arrived, Sean was experiencing ventricular fibrillation, a serious heart rhythm problem that is the most common cause of sudden cardiac death. He was defibrillated twice before being taken to a nearby hospital, and subsequently transported to CHOC Children’s.

As a patient in CHOC’s pediatric intensive care unit, Sean underwent a series of tests, including a cardiac MRI, cardiac catheterization, exercise tests and genetic testing. Results revealed no structural damage to his heart and no underlying condition. Sean’s ventricular fibrillation was ruled idiopathic, which means no known cause.

Sean’s cardiologist, Dr. Anthony McCanta, has specialized expertise in the treatment of irregular heart rhythms and presented a unique option to Sean and Erin. Physicians primarily use implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) to treat the most serious heart rhythm problems. The device constantly tracks the patient’s heart rhythm and delivers an electric shock to the heart when it beats abnormally fast. Traditional defibrillators require electrical conductor wires, or leads, to be inserted into the heart through a vein in the upper chest.

Sean and his mom chose a newer treatment option called the Subcutaneous Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (S-ICD). The 12-year-old became the first CHOC patient to receive the device.

“The S-ICD is not as invasive as other ICDs since the sensing and defibrillating electrode is implanted directly under the skin of the chest wall and it is connected to a generator in the axilla, or lower armpit area. No component of the device is inside the veins, heart, or even the inner chest itself. Consequently, there are fewer future complications of leads in the vein and heart, and a much faster recovery time — tangible benefits for young active children,” explains Dr. McCanta.

Just one week after Sean’s frightening ordeal, he was back at home in excellent condition.

“Even though I am a pediatric nurse, I am a mom first. I have tremendous gratitude for Dr. McCanta and the CHOC team who took such excellent care of Sean. He is back at home, playing with the dogs and his friends, and looking forward to starting middle school in the fall,” says Erin.

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CHOC Experts Discuss Drowning Prevention

Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional, accidental death in children, two CHOC Children’s experts tell “American Health Journal.”

Drowning is completely preventable, and CHOC offers a robust water safety program, say Dr. Paul Lubinsky, a CHOC critical care specialist, and Michelle Lubahn, a community education coordinator at CHOC.

Learn more about drowning and its prevention in “American Health Journal,” a television program that airs on PBS and other national network affiliates that reach more than 40 million households.

Each 30-minute episode features six segments with a diverse range of medical specialists discussing a full spectrum of health topics. For more information, visit

Paul Lubinksy, M.D., served his internship at Groote Schuur Hospital and the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Capetown, South Africa. He served as chief resident at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange followed by a pediatric critical care fellowship at CHOC Children’s.

More posts about water safety:

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Kids and PICS

Post Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS) is a relatively new constellation of symptoms given syndrome definition. PICS encompasses physical, cognitive and mental health issues affecting survivors of critical illness. Doctors are now focusing more on identifying children and families at risk, and instituting preventative and treatment programs. “Surviving a  critical illness is not the end of the saga,” says Dr. Lubinsky. “Today we have many more survivors from the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) than in the past. (97% at CHOC Children’s) We are focusing on rehabilitation and re-integrating them into life. The quality of life of survivors of critical illness must be addressed from the first day, and is being woven into the treatment plan. Simply surviving is an insufficient goal.”

“Family centered care promotes involvement in the patient’s care and has changed the environment of care in the PICU,” says Dr. Lubinsky. “Through the increased involvement of families in the child’s care and by minimizing the side effects of sedative medications, patients and families are involved as members of the team.” Parents give input and are given as much control as possible. Doctors discuss the illness and plan with the children. “There are no secrets with the kids,” says Dr. Lubinsky. “We help them to understand.” Care is improved when everyone is involved and understands. “We also have an increased understanding of the side effects of some of the care, e.g. minimizing the side effects of sedative medications, and exercising as much as possible,” says Dr. Lubinsky. “The care is improved when they understand all aspects.”

“It is vitally important for family members to take care of themselves,” says Dr. Lubinsky. His advice for families: “Be involved in the care. We like families to participate in rounds and learn what’s going on. They should have maximum understanding and control. They see that there is a team of people caring for their child and we are open and honest. Families should participate in care. Read to the patient. Keep them oriented. Change a diaper. Those normal activities that you otherwise would be doing are a normal part of coping and feeling like you are a part of the team. I encourage parents to stay with their child as much as possible. It’s a lot better for parents to be there while the child is receiving care. Imagination is worse than reality.”

Families with a very sick child or child in the PICU can be stressed, exhausted, anxious, depressed and feel a sense of grief, all of which can affect their quality of life. Symptoms can include (among others):

  • Persistent re-experiencing of the trauma, or flashbacks
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping


  • Number of days required to recover from one day in an ICU bed: 3
  • Percent of family members of a child in the PICU who will develop PTSD: 10.5 – 21 %
  • Percent of PICU children who will develop PTSD after a critical illness: 5 – 28 %
Dr. Lubinsky
Dr. Paul Lubinsky
CHOC Pediatric Critical
Care Specialist


Dr. Lubinsky is the associate director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at CHOC Children’s. He specializes in caring for critically ill children with respiratory and cardiac failure as well as neurological emergencies. He is president of the PSF and Medical Director of CHOC Children’s Specialists and is an associate clinical professor at UC Irvine.

Dr. Lubinsky’s philosophy of care: “When a child is admitted to the hospital, it can be just as scary for the parents as it is for the child. The team treats the whole family. We treat the entire family with the greatest compassion and understanding.”

University of Cape Town, South Africa
Pediatric Residency and Chief Resident UCI
Critical Care Fellowship CHOC Children’s

Pediatrics Pediatric Critical Care

More about Dr. Lubinsky

This article was featured in the Orange County Register on January 14, 2014 and was written by Amy Bentley.

CHOC Mission: World Class Children’s Care

This article was featured in the Orange County Register on August 5, 2013 and was written by Shaleek Wilson. View the full feature article and more at


A Special Place

“CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital is a unique little hospital,” says Dr. Goodman. Small in size, but big on comprehensive services for newborns to teenagers, it’s the only dedicated pediatric hospital in South Orange County. Housed on the fifth floor of Mission Hospital, CHOC’s world-class team treats everything from asthma attacks to injuries resulting from serious accidents.

Family First

CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital takes care of the whole family. Through its family-centered care approach to treatment and recovery, CHOC tends to the emotional and practical needs of caregivers so they can focus on their child feeling better. “We want to make them as comfortable as they can be for as long as they want to stay,” explains Dr. Goodman. Several amenities are offered to the families including the Ronald McDonald House Family room which includes computers, areas for resting and kitchenette.

Units of Care

In addition to its medical/surgical “unit,” the hospital has Neonatal and Pediatric Intensive Care Units. CHOC’s neonatal team treats Orange County’s littlest residents. The Pediatric ICU offers high-level care for children who suffer from critical illness or injuries such as an auto accident or near drowning.

How does CHOC Children’s at Mission help kids feel better?

“Hospitals can be a scary place for children,” says Dr. Goodman. From the colors on the walls to its commitment to respecting cultural backgrounds, CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital’s child life specialists help children cope by providing:

  • Books and video games
  • Dolls to explain medical treatments
  • Activities to help distract kids from painful procedures

Fast Facts

  • Population served by hospital: 1 Million
  • Total beds at CCMH: 54
  • Patients treated yearly: 2,400


Dr. Gary Goodman  Medical Director, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
Dr. Gary Goodman
Medical Director, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit


Dr. Goodman specializes in pediatric critical care with expertise in the treatment of shock, RSV and traumatic brain injury. He served his fellowship at CHOC and completed both his residency and internship at UC Davis Medical Center.

Dr. Goodman’s philosophy of care: “I take great interest in making sure my patients and their families understand what we’re going to do [to make them better] and why.”

University of California, Irvine Medical School

Pediatrics, Pediatric Critical Care Medicine

More about Dr. Goodman


Learn more about CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital.

CHOC Patient Experiences Miracle Thanks to Four Amazing Docs

The Bill Holmes Tower at CHOC Children’s is now open, and as we celebrate our new hospital and its state-of-the-art programs and services, including the Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC Children’s – Orange County’s first fully dedicated pediatric ED, we’d also like to take an opportunity to celebrate and recognize just a few of the many doctors making miracles happen every day within the walls at CHOC.  Here, we hear from Heather and Curtis Short about the CHOC doctors who saved their son’s life.

Cameron and his Dad, Curtis.
Cameron and his Dad, Curtis.

Cameron was born with cranial stenosis, or improper fusion of growth plates in his skull. When he was 8 months old, we scheduled corrective surgery at CHOC Children’s.

After his surgery, he was stable in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), so we went home to sleep.

But a ringing phone jerked us awake at 6 a.m. Cameron had suffered two heart attacks and a stroke. We raced back to the hospital to find the chaplain waiting to console us. Cameron had coded.

We went into the PICU to say goodbye. In a fog, we watched Dr. Adam Schwarz administer chest compressions. He brought Cameron back to life.

We experienced a miracle in the form of Dr. Adam Schwarz, Dr. Anjan Batra and a superb cardiac emergency team.

Twenty-one days later we left the hospital – the three of us, together. Now we have the friendliest, most enthusiastic 5-year-old in Orange County, if not the world.

But CHOC docs still play a very important role in our lives. Every six months, Cameron visits Dr. Michael Rebolledo for an echocardiogram. Since Cameron’s initial hospital stay, CHOC docs have seen him through a heart catheterization and an aortic valve repair.

In fact, just after Cameron’s fifth birthday, we learned that he would need open-heart surgery for a faulty mitral valve. We were terrified. After all, we came too close to losing Cameron the first time.

Again, we were saved by a CHOC doctor – this time, Dr. Richard Gates. He assured us that cardiac surgery would be less risky than Cameron’s original cranial surgery. As he calmed our fears, Dr. Gates handed Cameron his stethoscope, making everyone in the exam room happier.

We left Dr. Gates saying to ourselves, “We can do this. Cameron needs the surgery. We need to go into it with confidence.”

Today we have confidence. And we have Cameron — both thanks to CHOC doctors.

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