When Brittany and Michael drove their apparently healthy firstborn to Miami Children’s Hospital for routine testing, they never dreamed that the trek would save his young life.
During Brittany’s fifth month of pregnancy, a fetal specialist informed the expectant mother that something might be wrong with her baby’s kidneys and advised her to have the child checked by a nephrologist when he turned 3 months old. After the birth, little Michael seemed the picture of health, raising doubts about the kidney health warning. Nevertheless, the Naples, Florida, couple dutifully brought the child to Miami Children’s for an evaluation once he achieved the 3-month milestone. Their responsiveness—and an astute doctor who detected a heart murmur during a routine vital sign exam—probably saved Michael’s life. No sooner had the family returned home following the examination, than they received a call from the hospital asking them to return right away to consult a cardiologist.
What they learned from Dr. Richard Zakheim turned their world upside down. “We found out that Michael had several holes in his heart, and his aorta needed to be reconstructed. The doctors were amazed that he looked so good on the surface considering his very significant heart defects. He needed surgery right away. Without it, they were not sure how long he would survive,” recalls Brittany. Over the next few years, Michael underwent multiple procedures at Miami Children’s Hospital. The first involved the surgical repair of a coarctation of the aorta, a narrowing of the main blood vessel carrying oxygen-rich blood to the body. The surgery was performed by Dr. Redmond P. Burke, Chief of Cardiovascular Surgery at the Congenital Heart Institute at Miami Children’s Hospital and Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando. “He told us that Michael’s aorta was as narrow as a toothpick when it should have been the size of a pencil. He was impressed that Michael had managed to survive with such a constriction.”
The next step for Michael was the repair of multiple holes of varying sizes in his heart, called ventricle septal defects. Some were repaired by Dr. Evan Zahn, Chief of Cardiology at the Congenital Heart Institute, utilizing an occlusion device that was then still pending FDA approval. The AMPLATZER occluder makes it possible for holes to be repaired using minimally invasive catheterization techniques. Michael’s final procedure took place on February 14, 2006–Valentine’s Day. In the future, Michael's parents expect to celebrate this holiday with special feeling and with fond memories of the doctors who repaired Michael’s ailing heart.
”Dr. Burke and Dr. Zahn fly all over the United States to perform what I call ‘miracle work.’ Their hands must be very gentle to be able to work on such small and fragile infants. They are truly experts in their field,” said Brittany.
For Pediatric Cardiology & Cardiovascular Surgery Information or if you wish to make an appointment, please call 305-662-8301.