Stories about: Fetal Cardiology Program

Looking back and ahead: The heart that made history

Jack makes history with fetal cardiac intervention

In the early morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Jennifer Miller was preparing to make history. She lay in pre-op, ready for the Boston Children’s Hospital Fetal Cardiology team to perform the world’s first fetal cardiac intervention on her unborn son.

Two weeks earlier, at her 18-week screening ultrasound, Jennifer and her husband Henry were told their son would be born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a life-threatening heart defect where the left ventricle is small and underdeveloped. If born with HLHS, their son would immediately undergo multiple open-heart surgeries to repair his heart and, later, may need a heart transplant.

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Why it’s important to ask about your baby’s heart during an ultrasound


Did you know that at least half of all babies born with a heart condition are not diagnosed during pregnancy? Heart defects can seriously impact a child’s health, but knowing ahead of time will allow you to find the right people who can help. In some cases, prenatal detection can lead to earlier treatment for the baby.

Watch this short video to learn what to ask at your 18- to 22-week screening ultrasound to make sure your baby’s heart is healthy. If you don’t feel comfortable asking the questions yourself, download the questions and share them with the person performing your ultrasound.

Taking a few extra moments at your ultrasound is an important first step to managing your child’s health. Your baby might not be born yet, but they’re already counting on you.

Explore bostonchildrens.org/fetalheart for more information and resources.

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Francesca’s story: Beating a heart tumor

Francesca, who was diagnosed with a cardiac tumor before she was born, with herAlthough her parents were warned she might not breathe when she was born, the moment Francesca Durkos came into this world, she let out a gutsy cry.

“It was music to our ears,” says her mom.

Michelle Carino Durkos was 40 weeks pregnant when she learned there was a tumor attached to her unborn daughter’s heart — a tumor so large that doctors near her home in Pensacola, Florida, were unsure if the baby would live.

“It was a shock, because at 20 weeks everything was normal,” says Michelle. “We had a wonderful ultrasound; we saw all four chambers.”

Yet, call it a mother’s intuition, Michelle knew something was wrong.

“The whole pregnancy I had this strange feeling. I didn’t want to upset her, so I’d sleep sitting up, as if she was fragile — as if she was in distress.”

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