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The Care at Children’s is a Homerun for Reece’s Family

How do you break it to an active, healthy 7-year-old that he needs open heart surgery? And how do you tell him that his beloved baseball season will be cut short because of it? This was the dilemma facing Lauren and Ryan when their son Reece was diagnosed with a CHD. At Reece’s annual well check in 2021, his pediatrician noticed that his soft heart murmur discovered in toddlerhood had seemed to become louder and harsher. He referred Reece to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology and Dr. Glen Iannucci. Reece was diagnosed with Superior Sinus Venosus ASD/ Partial Anomalous Venous Return (PAPVR), and they began talking about repair. “We were shocked but really grateful we didn’t have to go far to get the best care,” Ryan said. “We were honest with him. Reece doesn’t get flustered. He’s a brave kid, and he asked probing questions. We were amazed at how well he was taking everything leading up to surgery, but the one thing that upset him was finding out he wouldn’t be able to finish his baseball season with his team. That was hard, but Reece understood that the surgery would help him get back to baseball healthier and stronger…

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Physicians with Heart: Dr. Sanghee Ro

Although Sanghee Ro, MD, joined Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology at an unusual time – it was in the thick of COVID-19 – she was eager to put her extensive training into practice in the up-and-coming field of fetal cardiology. “We haven’t delved fully into the capability of fetal imaging and cardiology until the past decade or so, which makes it an exciting field to work in,” Dr. Ro said. “The connection with pregnant moms and the ability to help them through a difficult time and provide continuity of care with their children after they’re born is very fulfilling and satisfying.” Dr. Ro primarily works in the echocardiographic laboratory and sees fetal and pediatric cardiology patients at Children’s Cardiology's Canton clinic.  Her clinical interests include fetal cardiac diagnosis, perinatal care planning, and fetal cardiac evaluation in critical congenital heart disease. In addition to providing patient care, Dr. Ro has research interests in risk stratification in congenital heart disease, quality improvement in pediatric fetal echocardiography, and fetal echocardiographic predictors of clinical outcomes in fetal structural heart disease. Two months after giving birth to her first child, Dr. Ro presented a 5-year risk stratification study to the American Society of Echocardiography and…

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Sibley Heart Center Cardiology is Now Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology

We are pleased to announce Sibley Heart Center Cardiology will be renamed Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology in October 2022. Why is the Sibley Heart Center Cardiology name changing? This aims to further align the outpatient cardiology clinics under the umbrella of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center, highlighting the continuity of care between our outpatient clinics and inpatient services, from the prenatal period to infancy and through young adulthood. When will the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology name change be implemented? Our official go-live date is Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. What does this rebrand mean to my family? The Sibley Heart Center Cardiology name may be changing, but the high-quality care you’re used to receiving at our outpatient clinics will remain the same. At Children’s Cardiology, we are committed to your family, and we are happy to serve your child’s healthcare needs. Will my child’s doctors, nurses and staff remain the same? Your child’s doctors, nurses and staff will remain the same. Will my clinic location remain the same? Your child’s clinic location will remain the same. You will notice new exterior and interior signage in the coming months. Will I notice any changes to my billing? You will…

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My Child has CHD – What happens now?

So you’ve learned that your child has a congenital heart defect (CHD). Their diagnosis may feel overwhelming. You may feel like the world has gone sideways. “My first reaction was to pick my baby up and run out the door; somehow thinking that that would save her life. The feeling was indescribable.” At Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology, it is our privilege to mend and manage hearts so our CHD patients and their families can get back to living lives simply and to the fullest. If you’re just starting your heart journey, here are the basics of what to expect. Diagnosis “A doctor I didn’t know, with ‘Pediatric Cardiologist’ stitched on his white coat, was at the door. In that moment, I knew our entire world was about to be flipped upside down.” CHD is not diagnosed with a single test. Your doctor will use some combination of family history, risk factors for CHD, a physical exam. Testing may also involve performing an EKG and/or echocardiogram (aka “echo”) , which is an ultrasound of the heart. Once you have a diagnosis for your child, here are some basic Do’s and Don’ts that may help you deal with this stressful new…

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Pediatric Cardiologist Answers Your Questions About Cardiomyopathy

Robert Whitehill, MD, a pediatric cardiologist at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology (formerly Sibley Heart Center Cardiology), answers some common questions about cardiomyopathy, a rare but dangerous disease of the heart muscle that affects approximately one out of 100,000 children under the age of 18. Cardiomyopathy is a leading cause of heart transplants in children. What is cardiomyopathy? Cardiomyopathy is a broad term that encompasses many different diagnoses. When broken down to its most basic form, cardiomyopathy is a long word that means “heart muscle disease.” This disease of the heart muscle makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. What’s different about a heart with cardiomyopathy? People with cardiomyopathy have hearts that are sometimes bigger or stiffer than they should be, and this can change how the heart functions. Some hearts are of normal size, but the muscle does not work properly. If you have cardiomyopathy, your heart may not be able to pump blood to the lungs and to the rest of the body as it should. What are the different types of cardiomyopathies? The three most common types of cardiomyopathies that can affect both children and adults include dilated, hypertrophic…

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Physicians with Heart: Dr. Lazaros Kochilas

Dr. Lazaros Kochilas, pediatric cardiologist at Sibley Heart Center Cardiology, says that accomplishing the overall mission to care for patients and advance the knowledge of heart disease keeps him excited about coming to work every day. In addition to being the Director of Clinical Research at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center, Dr. Kochilas is Director of the Pediatric Cardiac Care Consortium (PCCC), a long-standing multi-institutional registry of outcomes of procedures for congenital heart diseases. His main interest is the long-term outcomes of children with repaired or palliated congenital heart disease (CHD), with particular focus on patients with single ventricle. He has led and participated in multiple outcome research projects and has been an active member of the planning committees for multicenter academic and industry trials related to pediatric heart diseases. Dr. Kochilas also sees patients at Sibley’s clinic at Scottish Rite. The PCCC was established in the early 1980s and contains more than 300,000 events for 150,000 patients who have had a surgical or a transcatheter procedure for a pediatric heart condition. The registry has followed patients and their outcomes to help physicians better understand the long-term experience after cardiac interventions. The PCCC is connected to other national event…

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Developmental Challenges for Children in the Pandemic – Things to Consider

Children with heart disease are at risk for developmental differences.  It’s important that families monitor, support, and advocate for their unique needs!  Our providers have been following these kids through the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program for a decade.  Over the last couple of years, the pandemic has created some new developmental challenges.  Here are some things to consider:   Infants and Toddlers Some infants and toddlers with developmental delays are not getting the services they need due to the pandemic For infants and toddlers getting only virtual or online therapies, there are concerns that these therapies may not be as effective Be sure to resume therapies when you feel it is safe for your infant or toddler Preschool and Early School-Readiness Some children are delayed or not enrolling in Pre-Kindergarten due to the pandemic; research shows that Pre-Kindergarten is very important for building school readiness skills. It’s ideal not to skip Pre-Kindergarten. Some children who participated in virtual or online instruction during the early years of elementary school are showing delays in early reading and math.  Talk to your school team if you have concerns. For many children receiving IEP services, speech, or occupational therapy services during the pandemic, their services…

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Is it Safe to Travel? Travel Tips for Kids with CHD

As families prepare for summer vacations, one question parents frequently ask is whether it’s safe to travel with children with congenital heart disease. Our pediatric cardiologists have created a travel guide for heart families that contains things to consider when planning your trip and tips to prepare. This is general information. If you have specific questions or concerns about your child, please reach out to your pediatric cardiologist. Emergency Plan and Travel Tips Create a document with pertinent medical history to give to an urgent care or emergency department provider who may not have access to your child’s medical records. Surgeries (include date and surgical procedure) Medications (include dose and frequency) Allergies (include the reaction) If your child has a cardiac device, travel with the device ID card so you can alert security staff at the airport or theme park. Identify the nearest Children's Hospital or pediatric urgent care near your vacation/travel destination. It is preferable to identify a Children's Hospital with heart surgery/cardiology services in case of emergency. Adult ERs/hospitals/urgent care centers may be unfamiliar with some of the heart conditions in children, which can lead to overtreatment, unnecessary x-rays/scans or delayed diagnosis of a significant issue. Save the…

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Physicians with Heart: Dr. Allen Ligon

When R. Allen Ligon Jr, MD, returned to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center in the Fall of 2021, one of his charges was to create a multi-disciplinary care team for cardiac catheter patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) closures in tiny, premature babies. In April 2022, he and the Children’s Cardiac Cath Lab team successfully completed a PDA closure in an ex-22.3-week premature infant weighing less than two pounds. This was one of the smallest ever performed in the nation. Having this procedure now available in Georgia means that babies who have not responded well to medication can avoid the extra risks of undergoing heart surgery to close their PDA. While all babies in utero have a PDA, it typically closes shortly after birth. However, the majority of babies born extremely premature have a PDA that remains open, which can cause serious complications by allowing excess blood to flow to already underdeveloped and compromised lungs. “Having a PDA and being a preemie is very common and is, in fact, more common than having a congenital heart disease,” Dr. Ligon said. “The traditional treatment has been to surgically insert a clip on the vessel, which can be associated with ample risks in…

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Son’s CHD Diagnosis Gives Dad a Deeper Appreciation of Fatherhood

Hearing a diagnosis of CHD about your unborn baby can be scary as parents face the unknown, but finding a pediatric cardiologist who you can trust makes a big difference. This was true for Joey and Chelsey when they first met William Border, MD, at Sibley Heart Center Cardiology. Born in December 2021, Beau was diagnosed with Complete atrioventricular canal defect (CAVC) and Down Syndrome. While they hoped to get Beau to 4 to 6 months old before he needed surgery, it was determined he was experiencing heart failure in January and the repair was done immediately. He spent another four weeks in the hospital, with his mom constantly by his side and dad taking care of things at home with his two sisters, who are 7 and 2. Dr. Border helped them navigate that uncertain time in the hospital and prepared them to care for their baby at home when the time came. “Dr. Border is so personable, and I love that he cares about Beau and his best interests,” Joey said. “Everyone at Sibley goes out of their way to be an active part of your child’s care team. They make sure you understand things fully and have…

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Physicians with Heart: Dr. Eric Ferguson

Eric Ferguson, MD, grew up in the North Carolina mountains in Maggie Valley. He was a committed athlete in his youth, playing football for Davidson College followed by two seasons with a club team in Deggendorf, Germany, before starting medical school. His football experience culminated in his induction into the Davidson College Athletics Hall of Fame in 2022. As a medical student, he had a strong interest in practicing international medicine and considered a career in infectious diseases and tropical medicine. However, he became interested in congenital heart disease during his pediatrics residency at the University of Alabama – Birmingham and pursued that passion during a cardiology fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He then did a year of training in advanced imaging at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University School of Medicine and stayed on as faculty at Children’s Heart Center. Dr. Ferguson maintains his interest in international medicine and continues to travel overseas. He has spent time in Kenya at the Kenyatta National Hospital and in Nepal at a teaching hospital there. He has traveled to Bolivia and Mongolia multiple times on trips with Children’s Heart Project, a charity based in Boone, NC, that brings…

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Physicians with Heart: Dr. Shanelle Clarke

Dr. Shanelle Clarke, pediatric cardiologist at Sibley Heart Center Cardiology, specializes in training teams to talk to each other in crisis situations. As the Associate Director of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center CICU, she is developing a cardiac simulation program to promote improvement in multidisciplinary processes with the aim of delivering the most effective care to her young patients. As a mom of 7-year-old twin daughters, her research on team dynamics and functionality no doubt comes in handy at home as well. “I hope that my work in the CICU shows my girls that when you work hard and love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work,” Dr. Clarke said. “I tell them my job is to get the sick babies home to their moms.” Dr. Clarke says that working with her team to help the sickest of the sick patients get better and go home is why she comes to work every day. She also finds it deeply fulfilling to see the growth of young staff as they utilize the educational simulations she has developed. “When I see them develop a better understanding of what their patients need and watch light bulbs go off as they…

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Full Circle: Mom’s history with CHD helps her support Heart Warrior

When Ayin was diagnosed in utero with a congenital heart defect, his mom Karen had some idea of what it meant for their family. She herself was diagnosed with Pentalogy of Fallot (POF) in the 1970s and had it repaired when she was 10. What she hadn’t realized was what excellent advocates her own parents were for her as a heart warrior kid. “So much was happening behind the scenes that I never knew about,” Karen said. “As a child, I tried to protect them, but I never knew how worried they were until I became the mother of a heart child myself. The level of faith, strength and courage they displayed is amazing to me. They allowed me to be a child and gave me an inner confidence that I was able to instill in my own child. They were probably much more afraid than they seemed, but they allowed me to live a normal life. I’ve thanked them for that.” After Ayin’s birth, he was treated for Double Right Outlet Ventricle Tetralogy of Fallot complicated by a Left-sided Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia, which affected his lung capacity. He had five surgeries for his heart and one for the hernia.…

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Preparing for the Financial Aspects of CHD

When a family learns that their child has a congenital heart defect, the financial aspect of that serious diagnosis is often the last thing on their minds. However, along with providing world-class pediatric cardiac care and treatment, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology walks with families every step of the way, including helping them to prepare financially. “The first thing they should know is, similar to any time their child gets sick,” said Teresa Traugott, Senior Business Office Manager at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology. “Ask yourself, ‘What insurance do I have, what is my deductible, what will I owe and what are my options?’” Some families have Medicaid, and some have excellent insurance, but few will leave the hospital with a zero balance. Some families have low-cost health insurance plans with deductibles as high as $10,000, which can be a heavy burden after a heart surgery and stay in the hospital. “Ask questions up front if you can,” Traugott said. “Sometimes a parent gives birth to a child with health problems, and they don’t know what to ask or expect. But on return procedures and office visits, you can ask, ‘What am I going to owe?’” Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta…

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Liliana Faith Lives Up to Her Name as She Battles CHD

Without knowing how their daughter’s heart journey would test their faith, Lisa and Gary chose her name, Liliana Faith, long before she was born. They say that she has truly lived up to her name by being a determined heart warrior and causing them to fully rely on their faith every step of the way. Early in Lisa’s pregnancy, doctors saw something unusual in Liliana’s heart. What first looked like mild defects in utero, turned out to be five serious congenital heart defects including coarctation of the aorta (CoA). Within a week of her early birth, she faced open heart surgery and then many other hurdles to overcome. She spent her first two months of life at the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Egleston Hospital. “We had no idea what we were in for,” Lisa said. “I had sort of breezed through my pregnancy not realizing that she’d be in the hospital until March. It was scary at first because we didn’t know anyone going through something like this. The Children's Healthcare staff suggested we join some CHD Facebook groups, and it helped to know that we weren’t alone.” Once they were discharged, it became even more comforting to befriend other…

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11 Years After an HLHS Diagnosis, Mason Thrives

While still pregnant, Tonya was given a diagnosis of Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) for the son she was carrying, who would be named Mason. That news set her and husband Jeff on a roller coaster of ups and downs and a sometimes-harrowing journey into the world of congenital heart disease. By the time Mason was 5 years old, he’d had in-utero fetal catheter intervention plus three open heart surgeries to correct his condition and stabilize his heart. Tonya says that after his first post-surgery session with a physical therapist, he never looked back. His determination, persistence and courage has enabled him to recover and thrive. Today, although he continues to work on his strength and balance, he walks and runs without assistance and most people wouldn’t notice his differences if they didn’t know what he’d been through. Neill Videlefsky, MD, is Mason’s pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology. Tonya said Dr. V’s reassurances that they would one day experience “normal” life kept her and Jeff positive and moving forward through the toughest parts of Mason’s journey. “He told us everything that could happen, but he was also positive about the technology available and kept telling us things…

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Physicians with Heart: Dr. James Kuo

James Kuo, MD and his family were excited to return to the area where he grew up to work at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology. However, because the move took place in April 2020, he faced a host of unexpected challenges including moving across the country with his pregnant wife and young child during a global pandemic. Dr. Kuo is now happily settled at the cardiology outpatient clinic located at the Center for Advanced Pediatrics and serves as director of the Pulmonary Vein Stenosis Program, where he specializes in interventional pediatric cardiology providing evaluations and treatment of a variety of complex congenital heart defects. He said he enjoys being able to offer cutting-edge procedures that benefit his patients and working with an excellent team. “People who enter pediatrics have a passion for the population and that comes out in their interactions,” Dr. Kuo said. “The kids we work with are the most complex cases, and it requires a team to take care of them. Children's Cardiology does a great job of intentional recruiting and hiring, and they recognize who will support the culture and contribute to the team.” Dr. Kuo says that although he meandered into the pediatric cardiology specialty,…

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7 Questions to Ask Your Pediatric Cardiologist

Referral to a pediatric cardiologist for the first time can be an unfamiliar experience, and parents want to know what to expect. Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology physician Neill Videlefsky, MD, discusses the seven most asked questions of pediatric cardiologists and their answers. https://frmedicamentsenligne.com/acheter-super-kamagra-100mg-en-ligne.htmlWhat do pediatric cardiologists do?Diagnose and treat children with heart conditionsWork with patients antenatally (before birth), through childhood and into early adulthood (21 years old)Transition care to adult congenital heart clinic if required What may be indications for cardiology referral? Family history of fainting, pacemakers, unexplained sudden death, inherited heart conditions or structural heart diseaseHistory of palpitationsChest pain during fainting spells or with exertionUnexplained seizures Heart murmurConcern for heart disease on primary care physical examinationPoor weight gainBreathing difficulties with no obvious underlying lung conditionBlue skin discolorationGenetic syndromes associated with heart problems What will happen at my first pediatric cardiologist visit?A history will be taken.Regarding current concernFamily historyDetailed physical examinationInvestigations may be administeredEKGEchocardiogramMonitorsHow do I prepare for a cardiology appointment with my child?Have an age-appropriate discussion with your child regarding visit expectationsYounger children need to know that no painful or invasive procedures will be performed at the visitCompile a personal and family health history and medication historyBring test resultsPrepare a list of…

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Heart Warrior Clara Was Full of Surprises from the Beginning

Clara came into the world prematurely on Labor Day in 2017. More surprises were in store, however, when she was diagnosed with a Congenital Heart Defect three days later. Pediatric cardiologist Tim Watson, MD, went over Clara’s test results with her parents, Brittany and Tyler in the NICU. She was diagnosed with supracardiac TAPVR (total anomalous pulmonary venous return). This heart defect is characterized by abnormal drainage of the veins that carry high oxygen content blood to the heart from the lungs. She would need open heart surgery, and the road to get there would be full of twists and turns. “My husband and I were shocked, heartbroken, fearful and confused about how or why this was happening to our sweet and innocent baby,” Brittany said. “After a few months of hospitalization, disbelief, the many tears shed, the scary events that we had to endure, she eventually grew big and strong. By her first birthday she wasn't on any medications, our minds were more at ease as parents and her doctors’ visits became more minimal.” Brittany believes that Clara, now 4, got her strong will and determination because of her heart warrior journey. Although she was too young to remember,…

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Physicians with Heart: Dr. Wesley Lindsey

When Wesley Lindsey, MD, considers what makes his job at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology worthwhile, he says one of his favorite memories involves a pediatric cardiac patient he treated for several years. When she graduated from high school, Dr. Lindsey received an invitation to attend her graduation ceremony. “I thought it was the sweetest thing,” he said. “The family wanted me to know that I had an impact on their lives, and they certainly had an impact on mine. What I love about this job is the connections you build.” Dr. Lindsey did a dual residency in both adult and pediatric medicine, followed by a fellowship in pediatric cardiology, which gives him a unique perspective on cardiac issues in children like hypertension, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. He works in the Fetal Cardiology Program providing fetal diagnoses of CHD and counseling for expectant parents to prepare for complex births. He also serves on the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. “Nutrition impacts all aspects of a patient’s life, including kids with heart disease,” Dr. Lindsey said. “Kids often need to rebalance their diets. It’s not about depriving themselves or eating salads for every meal. It’s about balance.”…

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Physicians With Heart: Dr. Meghann McKane

In his letter recommending Meghann McKane for her pediatric residency, Brian Cardis, MD, said he was hopeful he’d one day call her one of his partners at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology. Sure enough, the two now practice together at Children's Cardiology. “During my medical school rotation through Brian’s office, I saw him drawing pictures of complex heart disease, and I was fascinated by the physiology,” Dr. McKane said. “I left there thinking, ‘That’s what I’m going to do with my life.’” Dr. McKane sees patients in both inpatient and outpatient settings as part of her position with the Children’s Heart Center. She is a member of the city call team, which takes her all over Atlanta and the surrounding communities to consult on CHD patients. She also works at many different outpatient Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology clinics including the Center for Advanced Pediatrics, Cumming, Dalton and Scottish Rite. One of her passions within cardiology is serving as the primary cardiologist evaluating and treating muscular dystrophy patients in the multidisciplinary neuromuscular clinic. They are in the process of being certified as a Certified Duchene Care Center through Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy and would be one of the only in…

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John’s CHD Shows His Family How Strong They Really Are

After giving birth to three girls with largely uneventful pregnancies, Alicia was concerned when she and her husband Justin were referred to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology after their 12-week ultrasound of their fourth child, John. They saw pediatric cardiologist Neill Videlefsky, MD, and learned their baby had several serious congenital heart defects. “It was scary when they told us we needed a heart specialist for a baby not even born yet,” Alicia said. “Dr. V. was really great. He drew pictures explaining what John’s heart defect looked like and what they would do to surgically correct it. He also explained that it was nothing we had done or not done. It just was. The big thing we always wanted to know was what we could expect normal life to be like for him.” John received the three surgeries necessary to correct his heart defect – the BT shunt, Glenn and Fontan procedures – which were successful. Alicia said the team at Children's Healthcare supported her family through a very trying time. “It’s an awful thing to go through, but you know that everyone there is meant to be there, and they’re amazing and caring,” she said. “John was born…

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Symptoms of CHD in babies, toddlers, preteens, and teens

Congenital heart disease, or CHD, involves heart defects and conditions that babies are born with. Sometimes CHD can be detected prenatally, but it is often diagnosed after birth and can present at any age.  There are some common symptoms of CHD that may indicate that a child’s heart should be evaluated by a pediatric cardiologist. Timotheus Watson, MD, discussed some of the symptoms that cardiologists look for when evaluating a patient for possible CHD.

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A Career Switch Allows Social Worker to Make a Difference at Sibley

She didn’t know it at the time, but Mariah Corcoran began her social work career as an Army brat growing up on military bases in Europe and the United States. Now a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology, she traces her passion for working with people back to the many times when she was the new kid in a strange environment. She learned how to build rapport quickly, establish meaningful relationships and adapt to diverse cultures and environments. She puts those skills to excellent use as an advocate and support for Sibley patients and families. Mariah spent the first few years of her career in the corporate setting as a pharmaceutical market research analyst but became interested in finding greater meaning in her work. She explored careers in healthcare, following the lead of her aunt, a midwife. “I have always been fascinated by people and their stories,” Mariah said. “It’s important as a social worker to be curious about people and start where they are to help improve outcomes in their lives. It is so rewarding to empower people to recognize their strengths and advocate for themselves and their children when extra help is needed. Supporting…

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Q&A with Dr. Kanaan: Pulmonary Hypertension

Director of the Pulmonary Hypertension Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center Usama Kanaan, MD, discussed pulmonary hypertension and its treatment by the multidisciplinary team he leads at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology. Q: What is pulmonary hypertension? A: Pulmonary hypertension is a relatively rare disorder of the arteries in the lungs that results in elevated blood pressure in the lungs and strain on the right side of the heart. Q: What are the symptoms of pulmonary hypertension? A: Symptoms vary depending on the age of the patient and the severity of the condition. The most common symptom doctors see, especially in older children, is shortness of breath with exercise and activity. Sometimes there is fainting or chest pain with exertion. More rarely, doctors may observe signs of congestive heart failure, like swelling in the legs. Q: When do you typically see the condition emerge? A: There are many different forms of pulmonary hypertension, which can occur at different ages. One form called persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) is exclusive to newborns, while idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH) typically peaks in middle age but can also be seen in children. Q: What are the common causes and…

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Comprehensive Care at Children’s Healthcare Surrounds Heart Warrior Family

When her 7-month-old seemed to have a progressively worsening cold the week of Thanksgiving, Shekeenah thought it best to get him checked out before the pediatrician’s offices closed for the holiday. She got the last appointment of the day and took Jonah for what she expected to be a routine visit. It was anything but routine. His respiratory rate extremely high, Jonah was taken by ambulance to Scottish Rite and Shekeenah and Ray soon learned that he had a cardiac fibroma, or heart tumor. It was a tumor so rare that they were told most cardiologists never see one in their career. Now 5 years old, Jonah is cared for by Chad Mao, MD, and the Advanced Cardiac Therapies team at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center. Shekeenah says that Dr. Mao’s care since the beginning of their journey has been a comfort and a guiding light during their most difficult times. “I can’t say enough about Chad and what he means to our family,” Shekeenah said. “He’s excellent not just as a doctor, but as someone who cares about Jonah and our family as individuals. We’re not just a number to them. They truly have their patients’ best…

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CHD Diagnosis Alerted Family to Down Syndrome

As a young couple with one child living in Charleston, SC, Christie and Billy were expecting a routine ultrasound appointment at their 20-week check-up. However, when the nurse became quiet and asked them to wait for the doctor to come in, they knew something was wrong. They soon learned that their baby had a potentially serious heart defect. A specialist determined Emily had atrioventricular septal defect (AVSD), which features holes between the chambers of the right and left sides of the heart. In addition, the AV valve that controls the flow of blood between the chambers was not formed correctly. They learned that Emily would require surgery in her first months of life. Not only that, but this CHD was known to be common to babies born with Down syndrome or Trisomy 21. Christie had a MaterniT21 blood test to confirm. “When we got the results, we were devastated,” Christie said. “We cried with each other, family and friends. We missed several days of work while grieving. What we didn't know then is how absolutely amazing it is to have a child with Down syndrome. The endless laughs, hugs, affection, perseverance and determination to succeed is far more than most…

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Down Syndrome Awareness Month: Trisomy 21 and its Effect on the Heart

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month! Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology’s pediatric cardiologist, Rachel McKay, MD, took a few minutes to discuss how Trisomy 21 (T21) affects the hearts of some patients. Q: What is Trisomy 21? A: Trisomy 21 refers to the most common form of Down syndrome, a genetic disorder associated with developmental delays, characteristic facial features, and intellectual disabilities. It is caused by the presence of a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21 and can affect other systems such as the heart and gastroenterology system. Q: What are the common causes and risk factors of Trisomy 21? A: There is a known association with advanced maternal age and Trisomy 21. However, in most cases, doctors are unable to identify a cause for the disorder. Q: How can Trisomy 21 affect the heart? A: There are several different cardiac lesions that can be associated with trisomy 21. One is an atrial septal defect (ASD), which is a hole between the two top chambers of the heart. Another is a ventricular septal defect (VSD), or hole between the bottom two chambers of the heart. Another is a “canal” type defect,  where there are holes in the upper…

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Nurse Practitioner with Heart: Kelsey Dyes

Kelsey Dyes, pediatric cardiology nurse practitioner, joined Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology in Macon just before the pandemic took off in February of 2020. Although it’s been an incredibly stressful time to work in healthcare, she said you wouldn’t know it from the environment at Sibley. Everyone rolls with the changes with a smile,” Kelsey said. “We’re supported in our concerns, and it’s still enjoyable to come to work, even with everything going on. The team is amazing, and they spend extra time educating our families and ensuring they feel heard and supported.” Kelsey said she has always wanted to work with kids and began her nursing career in a pediatric ICU in Savannah. She returned home to Macon while pursuing her nurse practitioner degree at University of Alabama at Birmingham and has since earned her doctorate. While in school, she did a rotation in outpatient primary pediatric care at Sibley with Brian Cardis, MD, and Wesley Blackwood, MD. “I wanted to have every opportunity I could possibly have,” Kelsey said. “I don’t want to ever be out of patient care, but if someday I’m interested in teaching or conducting research, I’d like to have all those opportunities available to…

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What is Cardiomyopathy?

Cardiomyopathy is a broad term that encompasses many different diagnoses. When broken down to its most basic form, cardiomyopathy is a long word that means “heart muscle disease.” This disease of the heart muscle makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. The three most common types of cardiomyopathies that can affect both children and adults include dilated, hypertrophic and restrictive. Dilated cardiomyopathy occurs when the pumping ability of the heart declines and the heart becomes enlarged, or dilated, and can’t effectively pump blood. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy involves abnormal thickening of the heart muscle, making it harder for the heart to work. This also mostly affects the left ventricle. Some people with this type of cardiomyopathy have a family history of the disease. Restrictive cardiomyopathy occurs when the heart muscle becomes stiff, so it can't expand and fill with blood between heartbeats. “People with cardiomyopathy have hearts that are sometimes bigger or stiffer than they should be, and this can change how the heart functions,” said Robert Whitehill, MD, pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology. “Some hearts are of normal size, but the muscle does not work properly. If you have cardiomyopathy,…

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Physicians with Heart: Dr. Neill Videlefsky

Dr. Neill Videlefsky loves going to work every day. He feels that it is a privilege to care for his patients and their families. A significant part of the reason he loves his job as a cardiologist so much is because “the outlook for the vast majority of children with congenital heart disease is excellent.” As time goes on and with modern technology, there is so much available to our patients – particularly with respect to interventional cardiology, biomedical engineering, computer simulation and other innovations. He goes on to explain, “In the past, many young patients would need open heart surgery. Now many of these children can be cured of their congenital heart disease by interventional procedures in the catheterization lab at the Children’s Heart Center that require just a one-night hospital stay. Parents and families have every reason to be optimistic and look forward to their child having a normal lifespan and a normal quality of life.” He is inspired by the resilience of his patients and appreciates the opportunity to form deep and long-lasting relationships that span from prenatal visits to young adulthood. Dr. Videlefsky’s journey to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology began thousands of miles away in…

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Physicians with Heart: Dr. Andrea Kropf

Dr. Andrea Kropf knew from a very young age that she wanted to be a pediatric physician. During her residency at Emory University School of Medicine, working in pediatrics, she had the benefit of great mentors who piqued her interest in pediatric cardiology. She then spent time on service teams at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center and the outpatient cardiology clinics at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology  during residency and knew from that moment she wanted to be a pediatric cardiologist. Dr. Kropf explains, “Cardiac pathophysiology is extremely interesting, but my favorite aspect is the relationships with patients and their families – from fetal life to adulthood. I jumped at the opportunity to join the team at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology. My husband and I both grew up in the Atlanta area and we are happy to be back! I feel connected to this community in a special way and feel like my career has come full circle. I now treat kids that go to the same pediatric practice that I went to as a child – the one that made me want to be a pediatrician.” One of the things Dr. Kropf loves most about her job with…

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Why Chloe’s Marathon is a Unique One

When Chris and Carol adopted Chloe from China in December of 2014, they knew she had a serious heart condition. Specifically, Chloe had multiple holes in her heart, a condition that is typically treated before a child is six months old. At two and a half years old, Chloe’s condition remained untreated. She weighed less than 20 pounds and was not yet walking. Less than a month after arriving in her new Marietta home, Chloe went to see Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology pediatric cardiologist Dr. Peter Fischbach. His examination revealed Chloe’s pulse oxygen level was just 60%. An echocardiogram indicated several abnormalities including tetralogy of fallot (TOF), complete AV canal defect, and a double outlet right ventricle. Chloe’s first surgery successfully closed the holes in her heart. Following the first surgery, Chloe received her first pacemaker after her heart failed to come back to rhythm. Chloe spent several weeks in the hospital and did experience some fluid leakage after surgery, but by spring of 2015, she was walking and thriving until spring of 2019 when Carol and Chris noticed she was slowing down, getting tired, and feeling short of breath. In August of 2019, Dr. Martha Clabby, who had…

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Why Noah is a Heart Hero

Maria and Cesar’s heart journey began before their son Noah was even born. While alone at a routine checkup during the fifth month of her pregnancy, Noah’s mom, Maria, learned the child she was carrying had a rare and complex congenital heart condition. She was told he might not survive and if he did, caring for him would be extremely challenging. Upon receiving the heartbreaking news, Maria and Cesar connected with Dr. Shiva Sharma, a retired pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology who monitored the pregnancy closely. While still in utero, Noah was diagnosed with single ventricle complex heart disease which means that instead of having two good-sized lower ventricle-pumping chambers, he would have just one. Dr. Sharma also confirmed Noah had heterotaxy syndrome, which means his abdominal organs and heart were in the wrong position. Noah’s heart and stomach were developing on the right side of his body instead of on the left. Heterotaxy syndrome is associated with immune system problems as well intestine and liver abnormalities. Following his birth, Noah remained in the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU) for two weeks until he was able to breathe on his own with 70-80 percent oxygen levels. Noah…

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A Heart Warrior’s Parents Learn a Lesson in Strength

When one-day-old Caleigh was diagnosed with an atrial septal defect, her parents had a hard time wrapping their minds around what it meant. But when they were referred to a pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology, CHD became real in their lives.  Chiandria and Khorey became well-versed quickly and learned that their daughter would require open heart surgery to repair the hole in her heart before she was three years old. They elected to have the surgery when Caleigh was two, hoping that she would not remember much about it and giving them the opportunity to highlight what a strong girl she is.  “On the day of surgery, we last saw her around 7:00 a.m. and not again until 2:15 p.m.,” Chiandria said. “Probably the most scary, awful moment was seeing her afterward, hooked up to tubes and laying there completely incapacitated. We’d just seen her that morning, happy and vibrant, and here she was, not moving at all. It was shocking.”  Chiandria says she was overwhelmed with emotion and brought to her knees. It was hard to take in. Although the next several hours were tough, the team at Children's Cardiology coached them through it.  “They took…

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Heart Warriors Can Still Get into the Game

Sports can be an important part of childhood and being active in general is recommended for all kids to stave off obesity, increase cardiovascular health, improve mental health, and foster a sense of belonging with peers. One of the questions that families often have when they learn about a child’s CHD is, “Will my child be able to play sports?” Depending on the severity of the underlying condition, many children with CHD can participate in all different levels of sports with minor or no restrictions, said Glen Iannucci, MD, Director of the Aorta and Vascular Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology. The American Heart Association publishes a set of guidelines to help healthcare providers fully assess a child’s risk and determine what limitations are appropriate based on the nature of their original heart defect and what residual problems, if any, remain after correction. For example, some conditions, such as dilated blood vessels or aneurysms, would make certain contact sports or weightlifting problematic, but a sport like cross country could be a good option. In addition, the AAP publishes the Preparticipation Physical Evaluation forms, used by most schools in Georgia for sports clearances. The form is designed to identify “red…

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Sudden Cardiac Arrest: What is It and How Can it be Prevented in Our Kids?

During National CPR and AED Awareness Week, June 1–7, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center places special emphasis on educating families about Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). The week was set aside by Congress in 2007 to highlight how lives can be saved if more people know CPR and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED). SCA occurs when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating normally—usually a result of a heart electrical abnormality—stopping blood flow to the brain and other vital organs. SCA is different from a heart attack, which is caused by a blockage of blood flow to the heart through one of the coronary arteries. While SCA is very rare in children and adolescents, it does happen, and if not treated within minutes, can lead to death. "The incidence of SCA in children is not fixed or even well known,” said Robert Campbell, MD, pediatric cardiologist and medical director of Project S.A.V.E. “It’s a small but emotionally powerful number, and we want to prevent every one of them.”  While there is much press coverage of SCA in teen athletes—in fact, SCA is the No. 1 cause of death in teen athletes—Dr. Campbell says that all active kids…

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Life in a Pandemic is Business as Usual for Heart Warriors

Sarah and Duncan learned early in her pregnancy that their twin boys would have a unique path in life. Wesley Blackwood, MD, pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology, told them during the second trimester that one of the babies’ hearts was not forming properly. Fletcher had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) with tricuspid atresia, and he would need surgery soon after birth. Five days after giving birth to the twins by C-section, Sarah and Elias joined Duncan and Fletcher at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center for Fletcher’s first life-saving surgery. The staff at Children's Cardiology went out of their way to help us, allowing Sarah to continue to breastfeed and the twins to bond,” Duncan said. “They took pictures in the ICU when we couldn’t be there. They helped us file paperwork and connected us to the Ronald McDonald house. The whole crew seemed genuinely concerned about our family.” Repair of HLHS involves three separate surgeries, and there are sometimes hiccups along the way. When Sarah returned to work at the U.S. Department of the Air Force, the couple learned that finding a daycare that would accept Fletcher and had the capacity to care for his needs…

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Physicians with Heart: Dr. Timotheus Watson

When studying medicine at Case Western Reserve University, Timotheus Watson, MD, thought he wanted to be a general surgeon – until a rotation in pediatrics and pediatric cardiology changed his perspective. He said he was thrilled by the technology that gave physicians the ability to diagnose both simple and complex heart disease in the tiniest of human beings. “There’s so much variety in the conditions we see and can diagnose prenatally,” Dr. Watson said. “It’s very fulfilling to be able to counsel families and let them know what’s going on with a child’s heart, even before birth, so they can be prepared. It makes an impact.” Dr. Watson has been director of the City Call Program since 2017. His team provides pediatric cardiac consultations at more than 20 hospitals in Georgia. He also practices at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology’s Marietta clinic where he provides outpatient cardiology services to patients as well as fetal echocardiology for expectant mothers to confirm or rule out any heart issues prenatally. His practice includes a preventative cardiac component to treat patients with genetic issues like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity.  “I do many of my own scans at the hospitals I visit…

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Physicians with Heart: Dr. Holly Bauser-Heaton

Holly Bauser-Heaton, MD, Children's Cardiology pediatric cardiologist, says her mom keeps a picture she drew as a little girl that showed her doing surgery on a patient. It bears a striking resemblance to the work she does now in Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center’s pediatric cath lab.  “Anytime there is a public mention of me or my work, I can tell my mom is very proud,” Dr. Bauser-Heaton said. “She tells me with tears in her eyes, ‘You’re doing exactly what you said you were going to do at 3 years old.’”  In addition to working as an interventional cardiologist in the cath lab, Dr. Bauser-Heaton runs a science lab, where she investigates the developing heart and pulmonary vasculature, producing 3-D structures to study how to treat pulmonary artery and vein disease. She said she loves the science behind vasculature and the opportunity to meet patients and families and bring it all together. What’s so fulfilling about the cath lab is that we provide information that no one else can,” Dr. Bauser-Heaton said. “We figure out the puzzle pieces and have the opportunity to work with all the departments from outpatient to ICU to surgical. We’re right in the…

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Early Gestational Fetal Imaging Gives Timely Insight into CHD

Conventional fetal cardiovascular imaging—fetal echocardiography—is typically done at 18 to 24 weeks of gestation, or at the end of the second trimester, allowing doctors to view the structure and function of a baby’s heart and diagnose most Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs). In recent years, however, it is now possible at even 12 to 14 weeks of gestation in certain high-risk pregnancies.  “Advances in ultrasound equipment and technology and increased operator expertise and experience has made accurate imaging of the fetal heart possible at earlier stages in pregnancy,” said Erik Michelfelder, MD, pediatric cardiologist and Director of the Fetal Cardiac Program. Advanced ultrasound technology allows for visualization of tiny heart structures only millimeters in size, as well as blood flow patterns very early in pregnancy. At 11 to 14 weeks, it is typically standard of care to perform nuchal translucency screening or maternal blood screening for fetal DNA, which can reveal genetic or chromosomal abnormalities that can be associated with higher risk of CHD. At that time, early imaging may be recommended to learn more. “Early gestational cardiovascular imaging is similar to a regular ultrasound that a pregnant mom may get at her OBGYN,” Dr. Michelfelder said. “It’s the same process…

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Mom and Heart Warrior Daughter Reflect on Life with CHD

A few weeks before her daughter’s birth, second-time mom Allison learned that her baby would be born with a serious CHD called tricuspid atresia. This defect occurs when the valve that controls blood flow from the right atrium to the right ventricle does not form, so that blood can’t properly flow to the lungs for oxygen. At a month old, Kendall received a BTT (Blaylock-Thomas-Taussig) shunt, followed by a Glenn procedure at 4 months old. She spent her second birthday and Mother’s Day that year at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center getting the final repair to her heart, the Fontan procedure.  “The team at Children's Cardiology was very loving and supportive,” Allison said. “The social worker came by to check on us often. I always knew she was in good hands. When we had to spend her birthday in the hospital, they even had a little celebration for her. They tried to turn a special day that was happening during a not-so-fun time into a memorable occasion.” Kendall, now 15, acknowledges that having a CHD can be “annoying” at times, but she said she refuses to let it hold her back. She’s a cheerleader and plays basketball, and she…

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CHDs Can Show Up in Teens, the Heart Center is There to Help

Nicole had episodes of a racing heartbeat now and then during her childhood, but she didn’t know what it was or how to talk about it with her mom. When Nicole was 15, she happened to have an episode when she was at the doctor getting her annual flu shot, and she learned there was a word for what she was experiencing: Tachycardia. Tachycardia is the medical term for a heart rate over 100 beats per minute. In some cases, tachycardia may cause no symptoms or complications. But if left untreated, tachycardia can disrupt normal heart function and lead to serious, life-threatening complications. Peter Fischbach, MD, Director of Electrophysiology at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center, recommended ablation surgery for Nicole to treat her condition and restore a normal heart rhythm. “It was shocking and scary initially because surgery is a serious thing,” Nicole said. “It made me anxious, but Dr. Fischbach has a very good bedside manner. He explained the surgery, and we talked about when it would be scheduled. He related to me as a teenager with a lot going on, and he used his sense of humor to put my mind at ease. In the meantime, they…

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CHOA’s Internationally Recognized Arrhythmia Program Treats Kids with Abnormal Heart Rhythms

Children who have been diagnosed with an arrhythmia, palpitations or chest pains receive coordinated, specialized care at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center’s arrhythmia program. It is the largest clinical program in the Southeast, caring for more than 1,000 patients with arrhythmias from before birth through adulthood. Arrhythmias, or an abnormal rhythm of the heart, may be congenital (present at birth) or they may develop later. “We take care of all forms of abnormal heartbeats, whether the heart is beating too fast, which is called tachycardia, or too slow, which is called bradycardia,” said Peter Fischbach, MD, Director of Electrophysiology at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology. “Many arrhythmias are just nuisance problems, but some can be life-threatening. We treat and manage the garden variety arrhythmias all the way to the very rare abnormalities that sometimes go along with CHD.” Children can be referred to the arrhythmia program for several different reasons. Sometimes patients complain of heart pounding or fluttering. Arrhythmia also can show up as chest pains or fainting or it can be picked up on an EKG during an evaluation for something else. Treatments can include monitoring, pharmacological therapies (medicine) or interventional catheter ablations. Arrhythmias also are sometimes…

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Physicians with Heart: Dr. Divya Suthar

Even as a child in India from a business family, Divya Suthar, MD, knew she wanted to be a physician. She was drawn to the sciences and pediatric cardiology in particular. “As a kid, I often saw fundraising efforts by families to pay for impactful, necessary heart surgeries, and I thought I should be doing something to help these children,” Dr. Suthar said. “Sometimes when you enter medical school, you change your mind and find yourself liking a different specialty. Somehow for me, the love for pediatric cardiology just continued to grow, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.”   Dr. Suthar focused on fetal cardiology because she was drawn to the challenge of diagnosing complex heart conditions before a baby’s birth. She enjoys combining the technical expertise required to understand CHDs with the rewarding aspects of reassuring a worried mom and helping children with CHDs grow and thrive. I love working with kids and being with families throughout their journey,” Dr. Suthar said. “These kids are so resilient. They tell you wonderful stories and wear their scars as badges of honor. They speak bravely about things that would normally scare most adults and just go on with life as…

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Entering the World of the Unknown, CHD Mom Advises Parents to Ask the Questions, Get Support

Looking forward to a smooth home stretch to her pregnancy, Lindsey went in for her normal 36-week ultrasound, but the results were not what she and husband Steven expected. Their son was diagnosed with Double Inlet Left Ventricle (DILV), a very rare CHD in which there is only one working pumping chamber in the heart. He was also diagnosed with and Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA) and Coarctation of the Aorta. Lindsey was induced two weeks later, which meant there was little time to adjust to Aiden’s CHD.    At four days old, Aiden had his first heart surgery, the Norwood procedure, at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center and was in the hospital for 17 days. Not long after, he returned to the Heart Center with heart failure. Too young for the Glenn procedure, doctors treated him with medicine, in hopes to avoid the need for a heart transplant. His heart was able to recover, and he was able to have the Glenn procedure when it was time. In June 2020, he had his final surgery to correct his CHD at age 7. “Before his third surgery, he wasn’t doing too badly. His pulse ox was low, and…

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Physicians with Heart: Dr. William Border

William Border, MD, came from South Africa to the United States in 1995 to further his training in pediatrics and pediatric cardiology and gain experience in a world-class environment. He hadn’t intended to stay on but he and his wife, a nurse, enjoyed it in the U.S. and now have three American grown children. In 2008, Dr. Border became the Director of Noninvasive Cardiac Imaging at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology, and he is part of the Fetal Cardiology Program. He is mostly based at Egleston, and he also works at the Alpharetta outpatient clinic weekly. As a professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine, Dr. Border has a strong research interest in the evaluation of heart function in childhood cancer survivors and heart function during exercise. The stress echo program at Emory is one of the largest in the country.  I enjoy working with children and helping them,” Dr. Border said. “Coming from an area in the world with limited resources where there were three cardiologists for 15 million people, I enjoy the fact that Children's Cardiology offers such top quality and comprehensive cardiac care to kids across the state of Georgia.” Dr. Border says the camaraderie,…

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8 Ways Nutrition Can Help Prevent Heart Disease

There may be some confusion when we discuss ways to prevent heart disease through nutrition. We believe we have to eat perfectly, but what really matters is paying attention and working on adding the better choices in, so the not-so-great choices slowly don’t have as much room.  This is the message that Laura Hamilton MA, RD, CSP, LD teaches our preventive patients every day. Whether you and your family have years of unhealthy eating habits or you simply want to fine-tune your family’s diet, here are eight heart-healthy habit tips.  Once you know which foods to eat more of and which foods to limit, you'll be on your way toward a heart-healthy diet. 1. Control your portion size How much you eat is just as important as what you eat, sometimes more. Overloading your plate, getting seconds and eating until you’re stuffed can lead to eating more calories than you should. Portions served in restaurants are often more than anyone needs, ESPECIALLY for our kids! Adult size portions are too big for adults, so having our kids eat the same amount is a big issue! Use a small plate or bowl to help control your portions.  Eat larger portions of…

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Sibley and Emory Partner to Ensure Patients Not ‘Lost to Care’ in Adulthood

When children who were born with congenital heart defects become teens and young adults, they may believe they no longer need to be followed by a cardiologist. However, it is recommended that these patients see a cardiologist with special training in adult congenital heart disease at least once in their lifetimes and often more, depending on their condition. It is estimated that less than 20 percent of adults born with a heart defect are still receiving the specialized care they need, a circumstance the medical community refers to as being “lost to care.” Because CHD-related issues are very different from typical adult heart problems, it is important that patients continue to be monitored by a congenital heart specialist as they enter adulthood.   There are long term issues associated with being born with congenital heart defects,” said Rusty Rodriguez, MD, pediatric and adult congenital cardiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology and the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center who specializes in transitioning children with CHD to The Emory Adult Congenital Heart Center. “For example, patients can develop abnormal heart rhythms or valve issues into adulthood. They may need additional valve procedures, heart rhythm interventions and further medical management.” Becoming lost…

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How a One-Year-Old Inspires Her Whole Family to Never Give Up

On January 6, Marliee celebrated her first birthday in the place she’s lived since she was 4 months old: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center. On her birthday, she was allowed the precious treat of seeing her two older siblings face to face for only the second time since she was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy and congestive heart failure. Marliee, her 6-year-old brother, Rory, and 11-year-old sister, Randi, were all born in the same month, which makes for a very busy December and January for the family, according to their mom Tiauna. “We don’t combine Christmas and their birthdays,” Tiauna said. “We celebrate them each individually. It’s a lot, but they’re really good kids. They deserve it.” In fact, the entire past year has been a lot for this family. Tiauna was furloughed from her job in March due to the pandemic. In April, she and her husband Christopher noticed their newborn was having trouble feeding and breathing rapidly. They had no idea what the next nine months would have in store for them. It involved Marliee being in the hospital full-time, receiving a Berlin EXCOR left ventricular assist device (LVAD) and being listed for a heart transplant. Meanwhile, Tiauna…

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Family Thankful that Children’s Cardiology Team Uses Talents to Restore the Hearts of Kids

Phillip and Nicole were thrilled to find out they would be parents. But early in the pregnancy with their first child, Nicole began showing early symptoms of a possible miscarriage. She overcame that obstacle but at 20 weeks of pregnancy, a fetal echo at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology revealed that baby Addison had Tetralogy of Fallot and an arrhythmia in which the top portion of the heart was beating three times faster than the bottom. Nicole was induced at 39 weeks, and Addison had open heart surgery at 6 days old to insert a BTT shunt (Blaylock-Thomas-Taussig shunt). At 8 months old, she had a second surgery to repair a VSD and pulmonary atresia, and the family expects one more when she’s older. “We follow up with Dr. Wallace once a year, and she has seen slight changes but nothing serious yet,” Nicole said. “If you saw Addison, you would never know what she’s been through. Her scar is very faint, but we call it her lifeline. We want her to be proud of it, and we want her to know that without it, she wouldn’t be here.” Nicole said Children's Cardiology has been a lifeline to her family…

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Saying Yes to a Tiny Heart Warrior Changes Three Lives Forever

When Amy and Doni said “yes” to a meeting with a little girl with heart problems, they had no idea what kind of ride they were in for. They also didn’t know they were about to meet their daughter. The couple, who began the process to become foster parents in 2018, was contacted in the summer of 2019 about the possible placement of a baby girl in Atlanta, which is almost a three-hour drive from their home in North Georgia. They were told only that she had “some heart issues and would need extra doctor appointments.” In fact, she was born with Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome, a serious and rare CHD in which the right side of the heart is underdeveloped. It was unknown then whether the baby would live long enough to meet her foster parents. Amy and Doni left the day after that fateful call to meet Emmaline at CHOA, armed only with a few onesies and a loose plan to get a hotel room near the hospital afterward. They didn’t even know the name of the baby with “heart problems” they were coming to see. When they finally entered her room, they took in the sight of…

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Child Life Specialists Help Heart Warriors, Families Cope with Illness

The main goal of a Child Life Specialist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology is to help kids cope with the sometimes overwhelming stressors that come with hospitalization. At Sibley, the care Child Life Specialists provide is family-centered, which means they focus on the whole family including siblings. Adrianna Roig, Certified Child Life Specialist II, has worked at CHOA since 2017. She spends a good bit of time helping parents talk to their children about CHD and what is happening in their or in their siblings’ bodies. “Adults often have a difficult time talking about hard things and assume their kids can’t handle hearing hard things. We tend to either oversimplify and not give enough details or we give too many details, and it becomes overwhelming,” Adrianna said. “The bottom line is that kids, just like adults, do better with anticipated stress than unanticipated stress.” Depending on the age of the patient and siblings, Child Life Specialists will sit down with parents to answer questions and provide resources that outline developmentally appropriate ways to talk to kids. They also can be present during conversations if parents need extra help. Our ultimate goal is to empower parents to know that they…

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Heart Warrior’s Family Has Michael’s Back

Ashley and Chris had two children already when their twins were born 10 years ago. Although the pregnancy was high risk from the beginning, as is typical with multiples, they received a big shock when the babies were three days old, and they learned they both had CHDs. Madison’s would resolve by her first birthday, but Michael was in congestive heart failure, and he was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot. “I shut down when I heard he was in heart failure and would need open heart surgery. I just went numb and quit listening,” Ashley said. “Luckily, my husband started writing questions and answers on a pad of paper. He cried on the way home, and I’d never seen him cry. It took two or three years to get over the guilt that I did something wrong, even though they told me from the beginning it wasn’t anything I did.” In his first months of life, Michael required a heart catherization and needed emergency heart surgery to ensure his body received enough oxygen. In order to restore his oxygen levels to normal, he underwent a surgery to repair his heart condition at five months of age. He had another surgery…

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Physicians with Heart: Dr. James Nelson

For Tony Nelson, MD, returning to Atlanta, where he spent a good bit of his youth, to work at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center seemed like a pipe dream. He’d always heard that when pediatric cardiologists landed a position there, they rarely left. But in 2019, fresh from a fellowship at Seattle Children’s Hospital, he was offered just such a position at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology. “I was ecstatic,” Dr. Nelson said. “The relationships I’ve formed with others in the practice and with the staff make Children's Cardiology stand out as an excellent place to work.” Dr. Nelson was first inspired to pursue pediatric cardiology when he heard a lecture from his professor and one of his mentors at Duke University about fetal heart circulation. Dr. Armstrong, the third black female pediatric cardiologist in the country, gave the lecture that made him fall in love with cardiology and influenced his future career path. “It was remarkable to me at the time to learn how everything worked in concert in the heart to allow blood to flow through it, and then the abrupt shift that happens after birth,” Dr. Nelson said. Dr. Nelson said his colleagues at Children's Cardiology…

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Children’s Cardiology Team Takes Care of the Caregivers When Treating CHD

When Mary Helen and Fisher learned about their son’s CHD prenatally, they were given a range of possibilities to consider including that his coarctation of the aorta could be minor all the way to the need for immediate open-heart surgery. But they wouldn’t know for sure until Will was born. “The hardest thing was knowing, but not knowing,” Fisher said. “It was the most scared I’ve ever been.” They met with cardiologists at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Heart Center and selected a surgeon, Paul Chai, MD, before Will’s birth. Everything was in place when he was born, and he had surgery to correct his CHD at four days old. With Mary Helen still recovering from a C-section and Covid-19 protocols, Fisher stayed alone with Will for the days leading up to surgery. “Everyone at the Heart Center was accommodating and reassuring, and they were willing to answer all my questions,” Fisher said. “With Mary Helen still recuperating at the hospital and another young child at home, I felt so guilty for any time I had to leave Will’s side, but the nurses made me feel comfortable leaving him in their care. They cared about our well-being as much as Will’s…

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Physicians with Heart: Michelle Wallace, MD

Children's Cardiology pediatric cardiologist Michelle Wallace, MD, said she loves the anatomy and constantly furthering her knowledge of how to best care for patients with CHD. But what really keeps her going each day are the patient and family relationships she has gained as a doctor at Children's Cardiology for the past 10 years. "I’m so fortunate to have long-term patients whose families have entrusted me with their care since they were in the womb,” Dr. Wallace said. “You sometimes don’t realize how you’ve impacted someone until later, especially as they go through really tough experiences.” Being part of a team that provides the highest level of both primary and specialty care all in one place, gives Dr. Wallace an enduring sense of satisfaction. CHOA is dedicated to improving the quality of life of patients not just in Atlanta, but across the state, and she said her colleagues are outstanding in several ways. They’re not just smart people, brilliant people, but they are dedicated and kind people,” Dr. Wallace said. “They, of course, know how to deal with a range of complex diseases, but they are also focused on making a family’s experience as good as it can be, from…

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Physicians with Heart: Dr. Brandon Harden

Brandon Harden, MD, says becoming a physician is the only career he can remember wanting to pursue in his life. His mom, a teacher, and dad, a pharmacist, encouraged him to become a doctor. His hometown of Rincon, outside of Savannah, had no pediatrician, and when he started his pre-med program at the University of Georgia, Dr. Harden envisioned filling that role someday and set it as his goal. In his third year of medical school, Dr. Harden was exposed to pediatric cardiology and fell in love with the specialty. As he was finishing his training in Washington, DC, he accepted the job where he’s been for seven years now at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology in the Athens clinic. His position gives him the satisfaction of working for a program with an excellent local and national reputation while maintaining the small-town feel he aspired to. I chose pediatrics because I’m drawn to kids, and I’ve always enjoyed interacting with them from the time they’re babies all the way to becoming college students,” Dr. Harden said. “I like establishing that bond with a family and watching their child grow and thrive at every stage of life. It brings me joy,…

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Physicians with Heart: Dr. Glen Iannucci

Sometimes all roads lead back to the heart -- at least that’s how it has worked for Children's Cardiology pediatric cardiologist Glen Iannucci, MD. He was inspired to go into medicine after being treated at Scottish Rite as a 15-year-old involved in a car accident. He chose pediatrics because he enjoys the opportunity to head off disease processes before they gain momentum in adulthood, and his undergraduate training in civil engineering and fluid dynamics at Georgia Tech influences his work today as a physician in Children's Cardiology Heart Center’s Aorta and Vascular Disease Clinic. It all comes together in Dr. Iannucci. “I was drawn to pediatric cardiology based on an experience in medical school during an adult cardiology rotation,” Dr. Iannucci said. “I was trying to understand how and why a patient’s blood had been rerouted in significant ways, and I spoke with the pediatric cardiologist who explained the reasons for all the surgeries. I found it fascinating.” Dr. Iannucci developed an interest in the Aorta and Vascular Program when he worked with Denver Sallee, MD, as a fellow and in his early years of training. The program follows children and young adults with blood vessel diseases, which can involve…

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Pulmonary Vein Stenosis (PVS) Requires Ongoing Intervention and Maintenance

Pulmonary vein stenosis (PVS) is cardiovascular condition in which oxygenated blood from the lungs cannot easily return to the left side of the heart to be pumped out into the body. The right side of the heart begins to struggle to pump blood into the lungs and the lungs become congested, which can lead children with PVS to experience heart failure. PVS, which is a progressive disease, is life-threatening if left untreated. PVS affects mostly infants born prematurely. It may develop in the neonatal ICU shortly after birth or may be detected when babies are laboring to breathe or failing to gain weight. “This is a rare disease that we are just beginning to understand better,” said Christopher Petit, MD, pediatric cardiologist and leader of the Children’s PVS Program team. “Who will get it and why are still poorly understood.” PVS is a disease of inflammation that begins in the immature air spaces of a premature baby’s lungs, causing a narrowing of the pulmonary veins. The inflammation process can also be kicked off post-surgically after a patient is placed on a breathing machine. When infants develop PVS, it is often seen in only one of four to five veins of…

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HLHS Treated with Three Surgeries to Redesign the Heart

Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) is a birth defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart. As the baby develops during pregnancy, the left side of the heart does not develop and grow appropriately. Hypoplastic left heart syndrome is one type of congenital heart defect. Congenital means present at birth. Because a baby with this defect needs surgery or other procedures soon after birth, HLHS is considered a critical congenital heart defect (CCHD). In hypoplastic left heart syndrome, the poor growth of the left-sided heart structures results in the following: The left ventricle is underdeveloped and too small. The mitral valve is not formed or is very small. The aortic valve is not formed or is very small. The initial part of the aorta is underdeveloped or is too small. Often, babies with hypoplastic left heart syndrome also have an atrial septal defect, which is a hole between the left and right upper chambers (atria) of the heart. In a baby without a congenital heart defect, the right side of the heart pumps oxygen-poor blood from the heart to the lungs. The left side of the heart pumps oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. When a baby…

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Physicians with Heart: Dr. Robert Whitehill

When Robert Whitehill, MD, was in medical school, he intended to go into his third-year rotations, where physicians typically choose their specialties, with a totally open mind. However, his first rotation was in pediatric cardiac service, and on his very first day, he watched a doctor close an ASD. It was a routine for procedure for him, but it made a massive difference in the life of a little girl who was not able to keep up with her friends before that surgery,” Dr. Whitehill said. “I fell in love with the specialty right out of the gate, and that rotation became the standard against what I judged everything else. So much for staying open minded!” Dr. Whitehill is now an electrophysiologist in the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Arrhythmia Program. Electrophysiology is a highly specialized field of study within cardiology that deals with pediatric heart rhythm disorders and the electric system of the heart. He focuses on inherited heart disease and device implantation. “During my fellowship, I had a couple of patients who were previously healthy and experienced cardiac arrest due to certain arrhythmias,” Dr. Whitehill said. “We were able to fix the problems, and they went on to live…

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