Heart Center

All Articles in the Category ‘Heart Center’

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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