Heart Center

All Articles in the Category ‘Heart Center’

Healing hearts: How Seattle Children’s and a simple newborn screening test saved my son

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Chrissy Ehlinger had a very normal pregnancy, so when her son Carter was born she had no concerns about his health. He was beautiful and perfect and looked like any healthy baby should. It wasn’t until a simple, inexpensive and non-invasive newborn screening test called pulse oximetry screening revealed the unthinkable.

Pulse oximetry testing is not required in every state, even though it is recommended by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Fortunately for Chrissy, the hospital where baby Carter was born elected to do pulse oximetry testing on newborns. Here, Chrissy recounts how that decision saved her little boy’s life. Read full post »

Visit with Macklemore helps 6-year-old heart patient recover

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Courtesy Jordan.Nicholson.Photography.

AJ Hwangbo was a happy-go-lucky 6-year-old without a worry in the world until mid-November when he developed a life-threatening heart condition. While specialists at Seattle Children’s Hospital helped AJ heal physically, the young boy struggled to bounce back emotionally. But, AJ’s joyful spirit returned after hospital staff arranged for him to meet his hero – local artist Macklemore.

“The luckiest or unluckiest boy”

Before he became ill, AJ’s mom Yoo-Lee Yea said he was an especially social first-grader and a frequent jokester. But on the morning of Nov. 12 he was quieter than usual. Later that day AJ threw up at school and by the evening he had a high fever. AJ’s primary care doctor said he likely had a virus and should feel better in a few days. Read full post »

Sophie gets a new heart and perspective on life after 40 days and 40 nights

SophieSCHThe holiday season is a time where family and friends come together and often reflect on what they are most thankful for. It’s a time of celebration and joy, and for some, it’s also a time to give back.

For 17-year-old Sophie Kuniholm, this time of the year is a combination of all those things. She’s thankful for her health, the support of her family and the ability to give back to others. But most importantly, she’s thankful for her heart, both literally and metaphorically. Read full post »

Patients say thanks to Russell Wilson and Ashton Wilson in their own special way

Patients, families and staff at Seattle Children’s Hospital surprised Russell and Ashton Wilson with a very special gift this week to say thank you for all they do for the hospital. We wanted to share with you the story behind our “thank you.”

Every Tuesday at Seattle Children’s Hospital something miraculous happens. Walk through the halls adorned with woodland creatures and colorful murals and you will see a common, unexpected theme emerge among patients, families and staff – the color blue.

Blue Friday may be the day Seattle’s 12th man showcases their Seattle Seahawk pride, but at Children’s, every Tuesday is Blue Tuesday. Read full post »

Lessening the growing pains with teen heart transplant transition day

Teen transition day group talk

Transitions are a part of life. Becoming more independent, turning 18 years old, planning for college – these are transitions every teenager must face. It’s the gray area between adolescence and adulthood, a time when most teenagers step out from the shadows of their parents and head into the world in search of self-sufficiency. For some, however, this can be daunting, especially when it comes to taking ownership of one’s own health.

For a group of 11 teenagers at Seattle Children’s Hospital who have all at one time or another had a heart transplant, their transition means taking a more hands on approach to their personal health.

They are now old enough to be the drivers of their own healthcare decisions and they are old enough to transition out of Children’s to continue care at adult institutions. Read full post »

New heart device at Seattle Children’s improves patients’ survival rate and quality of life

Montana teen becomes first patient at Seattle Children’s to receive the HeartMate II ventricular assist device (VAD) and a heart transplant while being supported with an implantable VAD. He is also the first patient at any pediatric hospital in the Pacific Northwest to leave the hospital with a VAD while waiting for a heart transplant. 

The Heartmate II Ventricular Assist Device

The HeartMate II Ventricular Assist Device

Adam Kingsbury went to see his family doctor for what he thought was a bad cold. It was there that Adam, a 16-year-old from Stevensville, Mont., was diagnosed with asthma and sent home with a prescription for an inhaler and orders to take it easy.

After a few weeks, Adam’s symptoms didn’t improve. He was having trouble breathing so his mom took him back to the doctor where it was discovered that Adam had an abnormal heart rhythm. At age 5, Adam was diagnosed with myotubular myopathy, a condition that makes the heart muscle weak. Because of this, his care team knew it was extremely important to find out what was causing the abnormal heart rhythm right away.

The clinic called Seattle Children’s Montana-based pediatric cardiologist Bruce Hardy, MD to examine Adam’s heart. An echocardiogram revealed that Adam was suffering from cardiomyopathy, a condition which causes the heart to lose its pumping strength. Adam’s heart was failing and he would likely need a heart transplant. Within three hours of seeing Dr. Hardy, Adam and his mom, Kate, were on a medical transport plane to Children’s main campus in Seattle where Adam’s condition could be best treated. Read full post »

Baby Poppy diagnosed with life-threatening heart condition, now thriving on 6-month birthday

This past weekend, baby Poppy Dahl from Belgrade, Mont., celebrated her 6-month birthday. This was a major milestone day for Poppy and her family – Poppy survived and is now home with her family after fighting for her life due to a life-threatening heart condition, hypoplastic left heart syndrome. She was diagnosed with the condition before she was born.

A program by Seattle’s KOMO 4 News which aired on Poppy’s half-year birthday, documents Poppy’s story of survival as her family and the teams at Seattle Children’s Hospital and UW Medicine do all they can to give Poppy a fighting chance.

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Two kids, two heart defects – One family’s journey

For the Millers of Silverdale, Wash., Valentine’s Day is extra special this year. For the first time in five years, their calendar is free of surgeries and hospital stays for siblings Tessa and Gabriel, who were both born with heart defects.

A complicated, changing diagnosis

The Millers’ complicated journey began in 2008, before Tessa was even born. Ariana and Chris learned that she had Down Syndrome and an atrioventricular septal defect (also known as an AV canal defect). The defect occurs when the heart doesn’t form properly before birth, leaving a hole in the middle of the upper and lower chambers.

Tessa 7.14.12

Even while she was still pregnant, Ariana began seeing Seattle Children’s Heart Center team. Soon after Tessa’s birth, she met Terry Chun, MD, who has cared for Tessa since she was just a few days old.

“This family has been incredibly resilient,” Chun says. “Even before Tessa was born they’d gotten the news that she had heart disease, but then after she was born, it turned out that she had more complicated heart disease than was initially thought.”

Most babies with Tessa’s defect will need just one surgery when they’re between four and six months old. Instead, she has had five surgeries in less than four years – the first when she was just five months old.

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Five Days, Four Heart Transplants

Heart transplant recipients (clockwise, from top left): Brooke Naab, Hannah Campbell, Batul Al-Salami and AJ Baird.

In one five-day span this September, four patients – one teenager and three critically ill infants – received life-saving heart transplants at Seattle Children’s.

For four families, the week meant the end of an agonizing wait and the start of a new life.

To perform four transplants in five days is very unusual, says Dr. Lester Permut, heart surgeon and interim chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Seattle Children’s. “But these are situations we train for.”

The first notification came at the end of a busy Friday: A donor heart was available for 6-month-old AJ Baird, who had spent half his short life waiting for a heart in Children’s Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU).

A team from Children’s – two heart surgeons and a transplant nurse – set out immediately to get the donor heart while a team led by Dr. Permut and another heart surgeon, Dr. Michael McMullan, readied AJ at Children’s. The transplant surgery started early on Saturday, Sept. 22.

The team was finishing AJ’s surgery when the beeper went off again: a heart was available for 14-year-old Batul Al-Salami, who has been followed by the Heart Center since birth.

Then it happened again, and again, until Wednesday, Sept. 26. By then, the team had completed a total of four heart transplants – more than Children’s had ever done in a single week.

The cluster of transplants made for an exhilarating week.

“When a heart comes up for one of our patients, we’re excited about it and the energy from that sustains us,” says Dr. Permut, who traded the role of lead and assistant surgeon with Dr. McMullan for all four surgeries.

“It was a tour de force for a big group of people,” adds Dr. McMullan. “It took an incredible team and a very good system to pull this off.”

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5-month-old Receives Seattle Children’s 100th Heart Transplant

Despite being born premature at 30-weeks gestation, Rachel Robbins’ new baby boy Ethan was an extremely alert and cheerful newborn. But at three days old, doctors first noticed that something was not right with Ethan. He had a heart murmur. The cause, ventricular septal defect (VSD), a hole in his septum located in the middle of his heart. Due to the hole, when his heart would contract, Ethan’s aorta would become so blocked that blood could not get out of his left ventricle causing pressure on his lungs.

It was only one week later that Ethan developed congestive heart failure.  By the time he was six weeks old his condition had worsened so that doctors diagnosed him with hypertropic cardiomyopathy, a genetic condition that may have been inherited from Rachel that caused the left ventricle of Ethan’s heart to enlarge and thicken in utero.

“He began to have difficulty breathing, he was sweating, and had a greyish-blueish color in his skin,” said Rachel. “He was also sleeping a lot more than he should have been, and it appeared he was using most of his energy to breathe. I knew something was not right.”
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