When Jill’s third child, Emmy, was born with a hole in her heart, Jill wasn’t too worried. Her two older sons also had the condition—called Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)—and theirs had cleared up over time.
In children with ASD, blood recirculates inside the heart, and doesn’t reach the rest of the body as well as it should. Dr. Mary Mehta, Pediatric Cardiologist at Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, Pensacola, worked with the family to track Emmy’s condition. It didn’t improve, and it soon became clear that Emmy would need complex and invasive surgery to repair the hole in her heart.
When Emmy was just three years old, the right side of her heart began to enlarge, presenting more risks: asthma-like symptoms and other coronary issues. It was time to prepare for open heart surgery.
Emmy’s family met with Dr. Peter Wearden, Cardiothoracic Surgeon at the Nemours Cardiac Center at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando. “That’s when I first realized that my daughter would have her chest opened up,” Jill recalls.
Dr. Wearden completed Emmy’s surgery—which took just 45 minutes—a few days after her fourth birthday. The surgical team texted the family from the operating room, and a nurse came out to the waiting room to give them the major updates.
The family was able to see her shortly after surgery was complete. “It was scary seeing her with all the wires and everything,” Jill said. “Every time she would wake up, she would scream and cry.”
Her recovery, though, was right on schedule. She went home two days after surgery, and was soon requesting lollipops—that’s when Jill knew Emmy was on the mend.
Today, approaching her 5th birthday, Emmy is completely healthy. She’s a big fan of roller skating and is constantly doing pushups, sit-ups, and chasing her brothers around. Emmy enjoys playing with her Barbie dolls and with the family dog. “She plays with the dog so much, I almost feel bad for the dog,” Jill laughs.
Jill says she appreciates the breadth of the Nemours network, and loved that Emmy could receive local cardiac checkups at Nemours Children’s Specialty Care in Pensacola and could have Emmy’s surgery performed by physicians in the same children’s health system.