The Future Holds Everything for Young Open Heart Surgery Patient
July 2004 — Just over one year after open heart surgery saved his life, 14-month-old Harrison is the picture of health. Harrison was born March 2, 2003, after his mother experienced a normal and healthy pregnancy. But moments after his birth, his physicians — Vincente Lemes, MD, pediatric cardiologist, and Mona Shehab, MD, neonatologist, both on the medical staff at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital and Memorial Hospital West — detected serious problems.
Harrison was suffering from labored breathing, which gave his skin a bluish appearance. To identify the exact cause, Dr. Shehab and Dr. Lemes completed the necessary tests, which included an electrocardiogram to determine possible damage to the heart. It was at this point that a diagnosis was made: Transposition of the greater vessels.
Harrison required immediate intervention to survive this congenital heart defect where the two major vessels that carry blood away from the heart — the aorta and the pulmonary artery — are switched. That meant that oxygenated blood was not circulating properly through the newborn's bloodstream — a life-threatening condition.
Harrison was transferred at once from Memorial Hospital West to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. "I was so glad that the doctors brought him to me so I could see him before they transferred him," his mother says. She would have to wait almost 24 hours before she could be discharged from the hospital, but her husband followed behind the ambulance transporting Harrison.
The next day, Harrison's parents met with Richard A. Perryman, MD, Director of Congenital Cardiac Surgery on the medical staff at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. "Dr. Perryman took quite some time to sit with us and explain everything about the type of surgery Harrison would need to survive," says Harrison's mother. "He was so matter-of-fact and so confident."
Skilled and Compassionate Care
Dr. Perryman, assisted by Gerald Lavandosky, MD, intensivist on the medical staff at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital, Memorial Regional Hospital and Memorial Hospital West, performed the delicate surgery to make an arterial switch to connect the aorta to the left ventricle and the pulmonary artery to the right ventricle. "We feel very fortunate that Dr. Perryman was the one to operate on our son," says Harrison's mother. "Obviously, he is our hero."
Harrison was very popular with the staff before and after his surgery. The NICU nurses went out of their way to make sure that Harrison was comfortable and that his parents were well-supported. When Harrison was moved to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) for recovery after his surgery, he continued to receive the same loving care, and his parents had the support and guidance they needed.
Harrison's parents can't say enough about the nurses and physicians who played an integral part in his treatment. "Everyone at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital treated Harrison like gold. They told us not to be afraid to hold, bathe and do all the normal things for Harrison while he was recovering," says his mother. "I don't know what we would have done without the staff. I'd like them all to see Harrison now. Thanks to their care, no one would ever think that our baby had been in such critical condition."
Looking Toward a Bright Future
Now that Harrison is completely healed and thriving, his parents make time to share their experience with parents of other children with heart defects through the Mended Little Hearts Support Group that meets monthly at Memorial Regional Hospital. "Hearing about a 95 percent success rate is great, but hearing from someone who has been through it successfully makes a huge difference," says Harrison's mother.
Harrison has been given a clean bill of health, but will continue to see Dr. Lemes twice a year for check-ups. "We were told to treat Harrison as a normal kid. He can even play sports when he gets older," says Harrison's mother. "The future holds everything for him!"
To learn more about the Congenital Cardiac Surgery Program at
Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital , call (954) 265-6939.