Kimberly and Michael were living in Texas when they had their second child, far away from family and longtime friends. Evelyn was born with Tricuspid Atresia, ASD, VSD and Pulmonary Stenosis and needed a PDA stent and stent expansion as well as the Glenn procedure – all in her first year of life. The couple, who both grew up in Acworth, decided in early 2020 to move back to Georgia to be closer to family who could help. Evelyn’s Texas pediatric cardiologist studied under William Mahle, MD, the Co-Chief of Cardiology at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center who also sees patients at Children’s Cardiology’s outpatient clinic in Marietta. Dr. Mahle is now Evelyn’s cardiologist in her new hometown.
Evelyn had the Fontan procedure done this past December, and she was eager to get out of bed as soon as she could and go to physical therapy. She was excited to ride the bike and see the therapy dogs, including Strider and Uno. Kimberly says as soon as Evelyn came out of surgery, she said, “I did it, mommy!” She also reveled in showing everyone that her fingertips were now a healthy pink instead of blue, telling the nurses, “I’m pink!”
“Those little milestones that may seem small to someone else are so big to heart kids,” Kimberly said.
Kimberly said she appreciated how well the nurses at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Heart Center and Cardiology listened to Evelyn, using the family’s familiar names for medicines and allowing her daughter to participate in getting better. She said the Children’s child life specialists provided play therapy and helped motivate Evelyn. They also paid attention to big brother Dominic, 7, easing his worries, including him in snack time, playtime and the care of his sister.
“They provided excellent care for our family, and they made the hospital stay so much easier,” Kimberly said. “I didn’t need to be stressed about not leaving her for one second because I knew they were taking great care of her.”
Evelyn is more than ready to go back to all the things she loves, including ballet, tea parties and playing outside. She couldn’t wait to wear her new dress for a planned daddy-daughter date. Kimberly says it’s amazing how kids can bounce back.
She recommends all heart families to get involved with resources like Kids at Heart. It’s important to make connections with others who get what they’re going through and to avoid isolating.
“Our biggest thing is that everybody’s journey is different,” Kimberly said. “It’s okay to not be able to carry the weight alone. There’s no shame in needing support and help, and it’s okay to seek help, including mental health support.”
Kimberly said she has become a big advocate for heart health with her family and friends. She encourages everyone to have their hearts checked out and posts about heart health often, especially during Heart Month in February.
“We’re grateful we get to walk out the doors of the hospital with her every single time,” Kimberly said.
Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) Awareness Week is held each year from Feb. 7-14 to recognize children and adults living with congenital heart disease, celebrate their journey and increase public awareness of these heart conditions. See the Children’s Heart Center’s Kids at Heart Calendar of Events here.
For more information about Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology and our pediatric cardiology specialists, click here.