Born 3 years ago, Abbey Beers pinked right up like a normal baby. But 24 hours later, as her parents Mike and Katie Beers were preparing to take her home, medical personnel detected a heart murmur.
A subsequent echocardiogram brought dire news: Abbey was born with a defective heart. She would need open-heart surgery soon — in a matter of days — or she would die.
“We felt like we’d been punched in the face,” recalls Katie Beers.
Abbey was immediately admitted to the UC Davis Children’s Hospital — inland Northern California’s only full-service Pediatric Heart Center — to correct a congenital heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome.
The center recently broadened its capabilities to include a highly specialized three-step surgical process, called the Norwood procedure, used to treat Abbey’s defect. Before UC Davis began offering this surgery, the only other locations for Northern California families were in the Bay Area. Since mending these tiny hearts requires an initial hospital stay of several weeks and return visits for follow-up care, having a hospital nearby was a godsend for the Beers, who live in the Sacramento area
The Beers have pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Gary Raff and a team of physicians, nurses and technicians with expertise in pediatric echocardiography, cardiology, pediatric critical care medicine and pediatric anesthesia to thank for the proximity of a medical facility that can now handle all types of heart surgeries on children.
“Families with infants with complex congenital heart defects are under a lot of stress and pressure,” Raff says. “It’s better for infants and for families to have friends and loved ones close at hand during such a challenging time in their lives.”
While Raff has honed the skillful precision required to perform complex surgeries on some of the tiniest and most fragile patients who suffer from birth defects like Abbey’s, his work is dependent on a team of health-care providers who each have a critical role to play.
In the first surgery, which Abbey underwent when she was just a week old, Raff reconfigured her heart so that the right side could do the work of the left. In the second, when she was five months old, Raff eased the workload on the right side of her heart by redirecting blood flow. A third surgery, which will complete the repair of the left side of her heart, will take place when Abbey is 3 years old.
As the demand for these highly delicate and specialized procedures grows, so does the need for support.
Celebrate the difference you can make. Attend your local Heart Ball.
The Sacramento Heart Ball, will be held at the Sheraton Grand Hotel Ballroom on March 17, 2012