Staci and John Donovan attended the inaugural Toss for Texas Children’s Heart Center in 2013. At that time, Staci was pregnant with the couple’s third child, John William. They had no idea that in a few short months their son would be at Texas Children’s Heart Center.
At a routine six-week appointment, John William’s pediatrician discovered a heart murmur. At Texas Children’s Heart Center, physicians diagnosed atrioventricular canal defect -- meaning there were two holes between the heart’s chambers (ASD and VSD) and a problem with his mitral valve that regulates blood flow to the heart.
The Donovans were committed to finding the best possible treatment for their son. Luckily, they didn’t have to look very far. “We felt so blessed not only to have a world-renowned heart center in our city, but also to have access to the best pediatric cardiovascular surgeon in the world, Dr. Charles Fraser,” said Staci and john. The Donovans were comforted by the Heart Center’s incredible surgical outcomes -- which are among the best in the nation.
Dr. Fraser and Dr. Carolyn Altman, a fetal cardiologist, met with the Donovans to explain their son’s condition in detail. Dr. Fraser recommended waiting a year for surgery so John William could grow bigger and stronger. During that year, Dr. Altman cared for him diligently, ensuring that he remained healthy. Just after his first birthday, both doctors felt it was time to begin thinking about surgery.
John William had open heart surgery at 18 months old. Dr. Fraser successfully closed the holes between the heart’s chamber and performed an extensive repair to his mitral valve. John Williams spent time after the operation with Dr. Paul Checchia and his team in the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU). Staci and John were amazed by the incredible care their son received and by the compassion shown to them as parents.
Today, John William is an active, healthy and thriving two-year-old boy and now has only annual checkups at the heart center. Staci and John are so grateful for the amazing team of doctors and nurses who cared for him.
“We felt so blessed not only to have a worldrenowned heart center in our city, but also to have access to the best pediatric cardiovascular surgeon in the world, Dr. Charles Fraser.”
Brooke & Scott Hutson were brought to Texas Children’s Fetal Center at The Pavilion for Women in April of 2014 by a very rare and frightening set of circumstances. When Brooke was 20 weeks pregnant, she contracted parvovirus B19 -- which causes fifth disease in children -- and the virus was transmitted to the couple’s unborn daughter Caroline.
While the virus is harmless to adults, it is extremely dangerous to an unborn child. An ultrasound confirmed that the parvovirus had caused Caroline to become severely anemic, and Brooke was immediately transferred to the Fetal Center.
A team of OB/GYN intervention specialists made the critical decision to give Caroline an in utero blood transfusion through her umbilical cord. Fortunately, the procedure itself was a success, but Caroline’s heart had become so stressed from her severe anemia that her doctors feared she would not be strong enough to make it through the night.
Caroline was a real fighter and proved them wrong. She kept fighting, when an ultrasound performed one week after the procedure revealed that the severe anemia had returned, along with a new complication. The virus had now caused bleeding in Caroline’s brain.
Physicians at Texas Children’s immediately performed another in utero blood transfusion to combat the anemia, as well as a platelet transfusion to help stop the bleeding in her brain. Caroline was closely monitored every other day for the next two months. Miraculously, her anemia, brain bleed and heart condition all eventually healed! Brooke carried Caroline to full term, and the doctors agreed that she was truly a miracle baby.
Caroline is now a completely healthy and happy 2 year old toddler. Brooke and Scott are forever indebted to the amazing doctors and staff at the Fetal Center for saving their precious daughter’s life even before she was born.
“We are forever grateful not only to have had our daughter’s life in the hands of world-renowned fetal intervention specialist, but also for their sincere care and personal touch as they treated us like family.”
Shortly after she was born, Amy and Michael Reeves learned that their daughter MaryAlan had a hole in her heart -- a potentially life-threatening disease. They brought MaryAlan to Texas Children’s when she was just four months old for treatment. Dr. Carrie Altman, Medical Director of Cardiology, and her team were able to close the hole in MaryAlan’s heart without having to perform open-heart surgery. Today, she is a healthy 5-year-old who loves tennis and all types of dance – especially if she gets to wear her hair bow.
Cari and John Griggs’ son Gus was diagnosed with a rare lung disease a birth, causing him to spend the first several months of his life in Texas Children’s NICU. Gus underwent four life-saving fetal surgeries while at Texas Children’s, all of which were successful. Seven years later, Gus’ mother, Cari Griggs, was diagnosed with a large congenital heart defect that had gone undetected for most of her life. Dr. Wayne Franklin’s Adult Congenital Cardiology team at Texas Children’s helped Cari to make sense of her symptoms and gave her the opportunity to be treated at Texas Children’s. In 2013, Dr. Charles Fraser performed open heart surgery to close Cari’s atrial septal defect. During her recovery, the four Griggs children were all checked for congenital heart disease. While their daughter Lila was diagnosed with a similar condition, the hole in her heart miraculously closed before any surgery was needed. “The Texas Children’s Heart Center helped change my fate as a mother and a wife. With God’s help, Texas Children’s has kept me here with my family,” says Cari. “John, Amy, Michael and I want every parent that has to face the fears and gut-wrenching pain of having a sick child to have the opportunity to feel the compassion, professionalism and lifesaving care that our family continues to receive at Texas Children’s.”
The Toss for Texas Children’s event was created by two families whose sons had a similar transformational surgery shortly after they were born. In 2007, Carolyn and David Anderson learned that their son Hank was born with something called transposition of the great arteries, which meant that his heart couldn’t deliver oxygen to his body because his aorta and pulmonary artery were reversed. Texas Children’s Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Charles D. Fraser, Jr. performed an operation that saved Hank’s life.
Just four years later, David’s college buddy Michael Fertitta and his wife Leslie learned that their newborn son, John, was also going to be born with this condition. Five days after birth, John underwent the same surgery that Hank had and joined the ranks of transposition survivors.
Twenty-five years ago physicians could not correct this problem. Today, heart surgeons at Texas Children’s have achieved a 100 percent survival rate with a procedure called an “arterial switch.”
Both families cherished their time at Texas Children’s and count their sons’ procedures as miracles in research and collaboration. Even in the celebration of the boys’ surgical success, so much of what still resonates with the Andersons and Fertittas is the drive for improvement.
“We have been blessed with health, but we sat among the families in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit and saw so many who spend years in care mode. Now is our chance to help raise awareness and funds for research to help drive the next advance in patient care,” explains Leslie Fertitta.