Kamaljeet “Kay” Murthy, MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist, and her husband Karna Murthy, MD, a neonatologist, don’t often work with the same patients. When they do, both physicians say it is a privilege.
“When we do share families it is wonderful to hear what they have to say about his bedside manner,” said Dr. Kay Murthy. “He is also the first person I call when I am worried about a delivery.”
Kerry and Chris Lynch, of Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, was one such couple. Dr. Kay Murthy delivered Mary Cate, their eldest daughter, who was born December 8, 2011 with Apert Syndrome, an extremely rare genetic disorder. Only about 25 babies are born every year in the United States with Apert Syndrome, which can cause severe facial abnormalities as well as webbed toes and feet. After Dr. Kay Murthy delivered Mary Cate, Dr. Karna Murthy cared for her in Prentice’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
“It was a pretty amazing experience to have both the Murthys working as a team in our corner, taking care of mother and baby and making sure everyone is getting the best of care,” Kerry said. “The experience in those early days totally helped shape how everything is now.”
Now 2 ½ years old, Mary Cate is an ambassador for children with disabilities, traveling with her mom to Chicago-area schools to talk about compassion, what makes people unique and how to respond to someone who looks different. Kerry called Mary Cate a “little Beverly celebrity” because she is known and adored in their South Side neighborhood. Their work in schools has been featured in the Chicago Tribune and DNA Info Chicago, and so far they have more than 50 visits planned for the 2014-15 school year.
Kerry said that the reassuring care provided by the Murthys, as well as the support team of the Prentice NICU nursing staff, paved the way for a life of celebrating the beauty of their daughter after the initial shock of learning, at birth, about her condition.
“Truthfully every single nurse we met in the NICU — they were truly our first therapists and they treated Mary Cate so typically, they all fell in love with her right away,” Kerry said. “They told us ‘You guys got this, you can do this.’”
Kerry met Dr. Kay Murthy only a week before a scheduled C-section because Mary Cate was breech. She said there was no one she would have rather had with her during her delivery.
“I could see out of the corner of my eye people coming in to the room and crowding around Mary Cate,” Kerry said of the moments after her baby was born but before she had seen her daughter. “My husband had seen her physical anomalies right away and he wanted to keep it together. Seeing how calm Kay was helped him keep calm. She came around to the head of my bed and said very, very calmly that we noticed a few things that look different, like her fingers and toes were fused together and her head is misshapen. We need to take her to the NICU.”
Dr. Kay Murthy asked Kerry if she wanted to see her daughter before she left for the NICU.
“I said of course, she kind of held her up for 10 seconds and I totally lost it,” Kerry said. “Kay told me it’s going to be okay, there’s a great team in the NICU. Little did I know she knows her husband was down there. It was the most exciting yet the most terrifying day of our lives.”
The Lynches soon learned that Dr. Karna Murthy was caring for Mary Cate in the NICU.
“That (Dr. Kay Murthy) would come in and check on me while her husband was taking care of Mary Cate was pretty incredible,” Kerry said. “You don’t usually get this power medical team that is also a husband and wife duo. He was wonderful, too, just a very calming presence.”
The Murthys have three children, which Kerry said provided an additional level of empathy.
“They’re parents as well and it didn’t seem like this sterile doctor-patient relationship,” Kerry said. “I think they felt for us.”
Dr. Kay Murthy also delivered Mary Cate’s younger sister, Maggie, now 1 year old. Kerry said she was pleased to have her back in the delivery room and that Mary Cate is thriving in her role as big sister.
“I got pretty emotional the second time around — I think we both got a little emotional,” she said of her and Dr. Kay Murthy in the delivery room. “After Maggie’s birth, I just took a deep breath and said this is how most people experience childbirth.”