She’s an ICU nurse. He’s an air traffic controller. And if that weren’t exciting enough, the Smiths were expecting twins. But even their high-stress careers didn’t prepare them for what lay ahead.
At her 8-week maternity check-up, Chanelle Smith and her husband, Patrick, were surprised and delighted to learn that Chanelle was carrying identical twins. Her obstetrician referred them to maternal fetal medicine specialist Amanda Mularz, MD, who practices near the couple’s home in The Woodlands.
“During my 20-week anatomy scan, Dr. Mularz noticed some cardiac-related differences between the two babies. To rule out the possibility of heart-related problems, she referred me to pediatric cardiologist Faustino G. Ramos,” says Chanelle. Dr. Ramos saw Chanelle at UT Physicians Pediatric Center – The Woodlands. UT Physicians is the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). Dr. Ramos is a staff physician with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and is affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center.
At 28 weeks, Dr. Ramos identified a small hole in the heart of one of the babies. Additional tests revealed that the baby suffered from a congenital heart condition known as Tetralogy of Fallot, which occurs in about 1 in every 2,518 babies born in the United States each year1. The exact cause is unknown.
As pediatric cardiac surgeon Jorge Salazar, MD, professor and chief of pediatric and congenital heart surgery at McGovern Medical School, affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, explains, “Babies born with Tetralogy of Fallot have a hole in the heart between the two pumping chambers that allows the blood to mix at the pump, or ventricular, level. In addition, there’s a blockage of blood flow to the lungs, which reduces the level of circulating oxygen in the blood.”
The baby would need to undergo open heart surgery after birth, likely when she reached 10 pounds in weight. Chanelle remained under the care of Drs. Mularz and Ramos in The Woodlands and was given the okay to deliver at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center, where she could be close to friends and family.
The Smiths’ twins were delivered at 34 weeks gestation via cesarean section. Camryn, the baby with TOF, weighed 4 pounds, 1 ounce, and her twin sister, Morgan, weighed 4 pounds, 5 ounces. Both babies spent three weeks in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) before being discharged home.
When Camryn was 4 months old, she was ready for the heart repair surgery. “Being an ICU nurse, I kind of mentally prepared myself, but it was a very emotional day, for sure,” recalls Chanelle. “They put her in her hospital gown, she gave us a smile, and they took her away. And that was the last time we saw her until she was in the recovery room,” adds Patrick.
Dr. Salazar and pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Peter Chen, MD, assistant professor in the Division of Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgery at McGovern Medical School, performed the procedure at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center. “The surgery was a success. We were able to restore a normal heart. Now, functionally and anatomically, the baby has a normal heart,” says Dr. Salazar.
One percent of babies are born with a heart defect, but the specialists at McGovern Medical School and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital specialize in handling cases such as Camryn’s. “It’s important to have your unborn child screened for heart problems through your obstetrician,” says Dr. Salazar. “We detect most heart problems before a baby is born. But as a double safety net, we check the oxygen level of every baby before they leave the nursery.”
Dr. Ramos continues to monitor Camryn’s progress. Ten months after the surgery, he cleared Camryn for all activities and for annual check-ups. Both twins are thriving. At their 18-month pediatrician visit, they both weighed a healthy 26 pounds.
The Smiths, who moved to The Woodlands from Midland, are thankful for the quality and continuity of care they received by their team of physicians, including Drs. Mularz, Ramos, Chen and Salazar. “We couldn’t have been in a better place for her,” says Chanelle. “It’s been a long ride, but now, seeing Camryn play, you would never know she had this issue.”
Click here to learn more about The Children’s Heart Institute at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.