Oftentimes, it’s the smallest hearts that require big attention as children fight through heart conditions and defects, with the help of their families and the highly skilled team at the UC Davis Pediatric Heart Center.
American Heart Month in February is largely geared toward heart disease and its prevention in adults, but children also can be burdened by heart problems. These are the stories of a few young warriors and the amazing doctors and nurses who ensured they have healthy lives.
Heart pump allows healing in 10-year-old’s overworked heart
Adolfo Ledesma became the youngest patient to have an Impella at just 10 years old after his heart was working overtime due to decreased left and right ventricular function.
Adolfo’s father initially thought his son had a cold or maybe the flu, but rest didn’t seem to help. Soon, Adolfo turned pale and could hardly breathe. His father took him to the emergency room where he was airlifted to UC Davis Children’s Hospital and admitted into the Pediatric and Cardiac Intensive Care Unit.
An echocardiogram revealed Adolfo’s heart rate exceeded the normal resting rate, and doctors were afraid Adolfo could go into cardiac arrest.
Pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Amy Rahm connected Adolfo’s heart to a machine, similar to a heart-lung bypass machine used in open heart surgery, to allow his heart to rest for a couple days.
As for a long-term solution, Adolfo was fitted with an Impella, a small pump that supports a patient’s pulmonary circulation by recovering the heart’s ability to pump blood while allowing the heart to rest and heal.
Adolfo’s Impella was removed a week later, and thanks to the talent and resources at the Pediatric Heart Center, Adolfo slowly regained the strength and was back to playing his favorite video game, Mario Kart.
Premature baby’s heart anomaly fixed without surgery
Marcellus Brown was born prematurely at 24 weeks, and his ductus arteriosus, an artery in the heart, didn’t close as it normally should after birth.
Twenty to 60 percent of all premature babies, like Marcellus, are diagnosed with patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), which if left untreated can lead to obstructive pulmonary diseases and heart failure.
Up until spring 2018, the only solution in the Sacramento region to fix this condition for very small preemies was surgery. However, Frank Ing, who joined UC Davis Children’s Hospital in February as chief of pediatric cardiology, recently began performing a special procedure that can close the artery without surgery.
This new procedure, which Ing previously performed at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, makes it possible to perform a PDA closure procedure for premature infants as small as 600 grams that can be done in the cardiac catheterization lab. The procedure not only reduces risks, but also only requires a general anesthetic.
Marcellus’ mother, Alexandria Brown, said they previously tried two courses of medication to close Marcellus’ ductus, but those were unsuccessful.
“We met everyone in the cath lab during his procedure, and the staff made us feel really comfortable,” Brown said. “They inserted a thin wire into his groin, and there were no scars.”
Heart defect doesn’t stop ‘Miracle Girl’ from thriving
Although she was born with a heart defect, little Grace Garcia became known as the “Miracle Girl” with a heart of gold.
Grace’s parents received the news of their daughter’s heart condition, a double inleft left ventricle (DILV) with interrupted aortic arch, before she was born. They were referred to UC Davis Health.
Just three days after birth, pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Gary Raff performed the first surgery on Grace, with several additional surgeries to follow.
Thanks to the team at UC Davis Children’s Hospital, Grace continues to thrive as the only girl in a family with three older brothers.
“I love UC Davis Children’s Hospital,” Grace’s mom, Lidia Garcia, said. “I didn’t even know about this facility, let alone where it was when we were initially sent here. It was such a blessing.”
Learn more about heart defects and the UC Davis Pediatric Heart Center: