A Special Heart for a Spitfire of a Girl
Sometimes cardiology care begins before a baby is even born. That’s what happened when Addison’s parents found out that they were expecting in January 2017. At the 20-week ultrasound, the doctor seemed to focus a lot of time on their baby’s heart.
“We didn’t know what that meant, but subsequently we were sent to Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando for a high-risk second opinion,” Addie’s father shared. “We met Dr. Gul Dadlani, Chief of Cardiology at Nemours Children’s Cardiac Center, and soon learned that our unborn baby girl had a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot in which there’s a hole between the lower chambers of the heart and a blockage to the blood flow as it goes out to the lungs.”
“It’s the unknowing, the uncertainty that can really make you crazy, but Dr. Dadlani and his team were always very accommodating. They made you feel like family; like everything will be okay,” shared Addison’s mom, Bridget. “The medical team put me in touch with other moms who’ve been through this same journey. They really go above and beyond to make a personal connection with patients and their families.”
Sometimes, as in Addison’s case, her condition continued to worsen as she got older requiring surgical intervention. “We were nervous — especially being first-time parents,” shared her father as he reflected on their experience. “The reality of it all hit me when we were at the hospital waiting for her to be taken into the operating room. Only one parent could go with her, so I had to say ‘good-bye’. That was the worst.”
“On the day of their visit with me, they met the rest of the care team and toured the intensive care unit to see where Addison would be after surgery,” said Dr. Peter Wearden, Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery, who performed the heart procedure.
A diagnosis of Tetralogy of Fallot requires lifelong follow-up, so Addison is seen annually. Now five years old, she is doing great. She likes playing ball and riding with the windows down, she loves to sing, loves mermaids and princesses, and just likes being a regular kid. Addison refers to her scar as her special heart. She’s not scared by it.
With all that they went through with Addison, her parents weren’t sure they wanted to have more kids. But, today, Addie has a 9-month-old brother named Eli-short for Elijah-who is 100% healthy and happy! According to Bridget, “Addison is his favorite person and he loves chasing her around the house in his walker.”
“Looking back on all that we’ve been through as a family, I would tell Dr. Dadlani thank you for being our family and for always being there for us,” said Addison’s mom. “As for Dr. Wearden, we refer to him as the man with the magic hands. He’s fixed Addie’s heart and we just love him.”
In reflection, Dr. Wearden comments, “I do feel blessed and privileged to be permitted to do the work that I do. I frequently say that the patients I take care of really do the hard work; they’re the heroes in my mind.”