A clinical trial to outline the benefits of using 3-D printed hearts for surgery was recently funded by the nonprofit organization Matthew’s Hearts of Hope. Read more about this on our sister blog, Vector.
Jason Ayres, a family doctor in Alabama, was speechless as he held his adopted son’s heart in his hands — well, a replica of his son’s heart, an exact replica, 3-D printed before the three-year-old boy had lifesaving open-heart surgery.
Patrick Ayres was one of the Boston Children’s Hospital’s first beneficiaries of 3-D printing, which in 2015 helped open a new frontier in pediatric cardiac surgery.
Patrick was born with numerous cardiac problems; in addition to double outlet right ventricle (DORV) and a complete atrioventricular canal defect, his heart lay backwards in his chest. DORV is a complex congenital defect in which the blood pumped from the heart to the body lacks adequate oxygen. Complete atrioventricular canal defect is a combination of issues related to holes in the heart and/or ineffective heart valves.
“There were a lot of things wrong with his heart,” says Jason. “We knew early on that he’d need complex surgery to survive.”
Well into his teenage years, Greek army lieutenant Thodoris (Ted) Sarafis thought the scar on his chest was the result of an unfortunate tumble he took as a child.
“My parents told me I had an accident, and that’s where I got my scar,” he says. Sarafis didn’t learn he’d had heart surgery as a toddler until his medical clearance exam for the Greek national karate team at age 16.
Ted took the news in stride, but last year, curiosity got the better of him, and he pressed his father for more information.
That’s when he found out exactly where he’d had his life-saving surgery (the Boston Children’s Hospital Heart Center) and who performed that procedure (Dr. Aldo Casteneda, who now lives and works in Guatemala). Ted then learned more about the details of his diagnosis and the extraordinary measures his parents took in 1984 to save his life.
Long Island middle school teacher Carole Going texts her student Jessica every day. Even just a simple exchange of “How are you feeling today?” and “Good, thanks!” can calm Going’s nerves. “I didn’t know her very well before the event happened,” she says. “We only had eight classes by that point.”
A month and a half ago, Jessica was in science class when she suffered a sudden cardiac arrest.
Going says it was her co-teacher, Ann Marie Carlson, who first noticed Jessica appeared weak: “She started to ask ‘Are you OK?’” but couldn’t even get all the words out before Jessica fell back on the floor.”
Finding out your child has congenital heart disease (CHD) can send you on an emotional roller coaster. “You can’t help but think, is this my fault? What did I do wrong?” says Jessica Nigrelli, whose daughter Avery was diagnosed with CHD when she was 16 months old.
When Avery was a baby, she had an on-again, off-again heart murmur that was checked every three months. When the murmur persisted at 16 months, her primary care doctor recommended she see a cardiologist from Boston Children’s Hospital. At the Heart Center’s outpatient clinic in Waltham, Dr. Susan Saleeb discovered Avery’s atrial septal defect (ASD). An ASD is a hole in the wall that separates the heart’s upper two chambers, the left and right atria.
The diagnosis shocked Jessica and spurred a great deal of anxiety. “Avery appeared healthy. Looking at her, you would never know anything was wrong,” Jessica says. The word ‘defect’ just sets off a million bells and alarms in your head. Processing that took some time.” …