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When Janelle and Mario Jackson learned their son had a congenital heart defect, there was a lot of uncertainty.
Just shy of Janelle’s 20th week of pregnancy, she and Mario received devastating news — a routine blood test revealed their son, Jadon, had a birth defect. The Colorado Springs residents turned to the experts at Children’s Colorado to ensure he received the best start toward a healthy life.
The Jacksons were referred to Memorial Hospital Central, Pediatric Expertise Provided by Children's Colorado. There, Janelle saw Mark Alanis, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, who recommended further genetic screenings to determine exactly what was wrong.
“Following the blood test results, we suspected Jadon had Down syndrome,” Janelle said. “When Dr. Alanis delivered the results, however, he was accompanied by Dr. [Chad] Stewart [MD, Pediatric Cardiologist at Children's Colorado Outpatient Care at Briargate, Colorado Springs, who told us our son had a congenital heart defect known as tetralogy of Fallot.”
Tetralogy of Fallot: an overview
Tetralogy of Fallot is a congenital heart defect consisting of four heart abnormalities, including a hole between the ventricles — the two lower pumping chambers of the heart — and an obstruction or narrowing in the pulmonary artery, which delivers blood to the lungs. As a result, babies with tetralogy of Fallot have low oxygen levels, which can cause dangerous complications. To treat this condition, surgery is required.
At the Heart Institute at Children’s Colorado, physicians have specialized expertise managing a variety of congenital heart defects, including tetralogy of Fallot. Care begins before birth with more frequent imaging tests, including fetal echocardiograms to visualize the baby’s developing heart. Doctors also work closely with families to ensure parents understand the diagnosis and know what to expect following delivery.
“Prior to Jadon’s birth, we performed multiple echocardiograms to determine if his prenatal growth, including overall heart function and lung development, was progressing as expected,” Dr. Stewart said. “During those visits, we also counseled the Jacksons on the type of surgery Jadon would need and when and where they should plan to deliver.”
In Janelle’s case, doctors originally planned to induce her labor, but an unexpected problem with her umbilical cord required an emergency cesarean section. Jadon was born on March 11, 2013, at Memorial Hospital Central, Pediatric Expertise Provided by Children's Colorado.
“Inducing labor meant the medical team would be present at the time of Jadon’s birth,” Mario said. “When Janelle’s cord prolapsed, the plan changed, but the team was still able to examine Jadon as soon as he was born and perform further measurements and tests to determine exactly when he would need surgery.”
Steps toward recovery
Following his birth, Jadon spent two weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit at Memorial Hospital Central, Pediatric Expertise Provided by Children's Colorado, where Dr. Stewart and his partners monitored his oxygen levels and performed another echocardiogram to confirm the diagnosis. Dr. Stewart continued to monitor Jadon’s condition closely following his discharge from the hospital until his surgery on Sept. 11, 2013.
James Jaggers, MD, Chief of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at Children’s Colorado, performed the open-heart procedure in Aurora on the Anschutz Medical Campus. It was a success, and Dr. Jaggers was able to close the hole between the ventricles in Jadon’s heart and enlarge the right ventricular outflow tract leading to the pulmonary artery, enhancing blood flow. Seven days after surgery, Jadon was able to return home to Colorado Springs, where he continues to see Dr. Stewart regularly.
“Jadon has done remarkably well following his surgery,” Dr. Stewart said. “I expect him to lead a normal life, be able to play sports and do everything else boys his age like to do.”
Serving Colorado Springs
Children’s Colorado has an outpatient facility in Colorado Springs — Children's Colorado Outpatient Care at Briargate, Colorado Springs.
This facility provides south Colorado families like the Jacksons access to specialty care near their home. Specialties include pediatric cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, hematology and oncology, neurology, urology, and physical and speech therapy.
Caring for the whole family
When Mario and Janelle Jackson arrived at Children's Hospital Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora for their son Jadon’s surgery, a hospital liaison greeted them immediately and helped them navigate the hospital. Following surgery, the Jacksons were impressed with the nursing staff who provided exceptional care, including postoperative education on how to bathe Jadon and care for his incision.
“From day one, every member of the team was respectful and treated our entire family with compassion,” Janelle said. “As soon as we met the medical team, we had no doubt Jadon was going to be fine.”
Why do outcomes matter?
At Children’s Colorado, outcomes for treatment of congenital heart defects consistently exceed national averages. That means that your child is likely to do better after surgery and go home sooner. Mortality rates measure deaths — either general or due to an identified factor — scaled to the size of a population per a set period of time. At Children’s Colorado, deaths following cardiac surgery are less than half the national expected mortality rates, and length of stay following surgery is shorter than expected.
“Treatment of congenital heart defects is a highly specialized, complex area of medicine that requires providers skilled in cardiac surgery, anesthesia and critical care,” said James Jaggers, MD, Chief of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at Children’s Colorado. “It’s important for families to understand the outcomes of each individual institution so they ensure the best outcome for their child. There are very few centers across the country that provide as good care as Children’s Colorado.”