Stories about: Ebstein’s anomaly

Building a healthy heart through cardiac fitness

Joao, who has Ebstein's anomaly, poses in New York City. This spring, Joao DeToledo will be stepping onto the volleyball court to play for his high school team for the first time. It will be a proud moment for the high school senior from Somerville — playing a competitive sport is a goal he hadn’t dreamt possible just a few years ago. Though Joao has always loved sports, he was born with Ebstein’s anomaly, a congenital heart condition that, until recently, has forced him to spend a lot of time on the sidelines.

When Joao expressed frustration at not being able to participate in gym and sports as much as he’d like, his cardiologist, Dr. David Fulton, recommended the Cardiac Fitness Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. The program, one of the first of its kind, offers kids and adults with congenital heart disease a chance to exercise in a safe environment.

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Hope for Kevin’s heart: Five-year-old shines after novel treatment for Ebstein’s anomaly

Kevin, who was born with Ebstein's anomaly, practices his dance moves.As the lights dimmed and Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” blasted from loudspeakers, Kevin Nolan III took to the stage for his very first dance recital. Sporting striped pants, a turquoise bow tie and a black top hat, Kevin joined his class in performing two hip-hop jazz routines to a packed house. Kevin’s mood was perfectly in step with the song’s lyrics.

“He had so much fun,” says Kevin’s mom, Laura. “He said he can’t wait to get on stage again.”

While a first dance recital is a big deal for any 5-year-old, it’s especially poignant for Kevin, who was diagnosed prenatally with Ebstein’s anomaly, a rare heart condition that causes leakage of the tricuspid valve and backup of blood flow into the heart. Kevin also had pulmonary valve regurgitation, which was stealing blood flow away from his essential organs. His condition was so severe that when it was first discovered during a prenatal ultrasound, doctors at a hospital in Boston said he might not survive.

“We met with a heart specialist who told us we should just say goodbye,” says Kevin’s dad, Kevin Jr. “He said nothing could be done.”

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