When Carvina was pregnant with her son, there were some suspicious warning signs that there could be complications, but she had no idea that her baby would end up at Sibley Heart Center at two days old with a heart murmur and three holes in his heart. At four months old, Christian underwent a cardiac catherization procedure, and at six months old, he had open heart surgery to remove a faulty valve.
“As you can imagine, it was nerve-racking as a mom to have all that done at such a young age,” said Carvina, who works at the Spelman College Student Health Services Center. “He was so small.”
Christian, now a third-grader at an Atlanta technology magnet school, recently made a video for school that details his journey. Within the first two weeks of third grade, Christian was promoted to the magnet school and gifted program, where he thrives in front of the camera and excels in his studies.
“Needless to say, he has quite a personality,” Carvina said. “People tell me I should take him for acting auditions. He’s very bright. His heart problems didn’t affect him in that way at all.”
Christian is a long way from those first scary months, when Carvina wanted him to always be in the care of herself or a close family member who would pay attention to any signs of distress and know how to react. Carvina says she had to make many difficult decisions around Christian and his older brother, Jordan, including where and when to work and where they lived, but Sibley was a constant in their lives.
“I don’t like to change doctors,” Carvina said. “I want him to be where his doctors know his cardiac history. I like the care he receives at Sibley. They are pretty much open books with me, and they answer all my questions. I feel like it’s at home for us.”
At some point, probably in his late teens or early 20s, Christian will likely need another surgery to replace the atrial valve that doctors removed when he was an infant. Carvina said he’s not worried about it.
Every time we go, we see the same doctors. He knows all the doctors’ names, and he knows all about his procedures from the first to the last,” Carvina said. “He loves going there. The last time, he was talking to Dr. Fischbach about the two of them doing business together!”
Christian is also passionate about educating others about cardiac conditions in children. Carvina said when Christian changed schools, there was some bullying because of his smaller stature. The kids would pick him up and drop him or dismiss what he was saying because he looked younger.
“He would say, ‘They just don’t understand, mom. I wish other kids knew that some kids are just different,’” Carvina said.
For his part, Christian is taking the initiative to help people understand. As a second-grader, Christian was invited to speak to a group of kindergarteners, and his mom says he loves to encourage other children.
“He was talking to another child with a heart murmur, and they were just talking and talking like two adults,” Carvina said. “One of them said to the other, ‘So, who’s your surgeon?’”
For more information about Sibley Heart Center Cardiology and our pediatric cardiology specialists, click here.