In October of 2011, Deborah Bobell received one of those phone calls that every parent dreads: her daughter Marcy had just passed out at work. Marcy—an active and athletic 37 year old—has Down syndrome and a history of previous heart issues. As Deborah raced to her daughter’s side, Marcy passed out two more times.
Marcy was rushed to Memorial Hospital in Springfield, Illinois where she was stabilized. Doctors discovered that Marcy had severe leakage in her left atrioventricular valve and her heart function was deteriorating. Further evaluation revealed problems with the electrical system of her heart. “The cardiologist in Springfield was extremely concerned, says Deborah. He was very honest with us and said he would not touch Marcy’s heart—it was too risky. We really appreciated his honesty. He told us we needed to go to St. Louis Children’s Hospital and see Dr. Pirooz Eghtesady.“
The family traveled to St. Louis and met with Dr. Eghtesady and his team. “Marcy’s case was complicated, said Dr. Eghtesady, co-director of the St. Louis Children’s and Washington University Heart Center. “We had to do a left AV Valve procedure and surgically create “speed bumps” to prevent abnormal hearth rhythms from taking control of the normal conduction mechanism within her heart.
For the next couple of weeks, Marcy was confined to the family’s home so she would not be exposed to any germs. Her parents had to carefully monitor her blood pressure and other vital signs as they counted down the days to her surgery. “Dr. Eghtesady said that the surgery would take 8-10 hours. When he came into the waiting room after just six hours, it took my breath away—I thought something had gone wrong. Thanks to Dr. Eghtesady and his colleagues, everything went according to plan and there will be no need for additional surgeries.“
Within three days Marcy was up and walking around. “It was amazing,” says Deborah. “It was such a positive experience—from the minute we checked in St. Louis Children’s Hospital we were well cared for. And Dr. Eghtesady is just an amazing man. He led us through the entire process, keeping us informed every step of the way. I don’t have the words to express how I feel about what he did for our daughter.”
Marcy is just one example of how the close collaboration between the surgeons at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Barnes Jewish Hospital advances patient care at both facilities. In fact, the procedure used to regulate Marcy’s heart rhythm, called the Cox-Maze procedure, was actually first developed at Barnes-Jewish Hospital for adult patients. The success rate at Barnes-Jewish is the highest in the world.
“All of our young patients benefit from our working relationship with our fellow surgeons and colleagues on the adult side. We both see a high volume of patients and have access to the latest devices and advances in surgical technique. Patients like Marcy benefit from our ability to pick up the phone and immediately consult with our colleagues on complicated cases like hers. In some situations, they will come over and join us in the operating room—and we will do the same for them. The net outcome is a cohesive collaboration that allows a comprehensive array of options for our patients.”
Marcy is equally grateful for her new lease on life and echoes her mother’s feelings. “Amazing!” she says. What’s even more amazing is that just months after a precarious open heart surgery, Marcy is back to work, participating in sports and serving as Global Messenger for the Special Olympics. “Thanks to Dr. Eghtesady’s surgical skills and Marcy’s active lifestyle, she is back to her old self again,” says Deborah.