Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the most common type of birth defect, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Still, Jen and Shawn Stiffler had no reason to think that it would affect two of their kids.
Their first child, Wade, had no heart issues. But when Scout was a newborn, Jen took her to the doctor for a suspected ear infection.
Scout’s Congenital Heart Disease Diagnosis
Scout ended up having something much more serious than an ear infection. Her pediatrician detected a problem with her heartbeat. Doctors diagnosed her with a congenital heart defect called permanent junctional reentrant tachycardia (PJRT).
Essentially, that meant she had a “problem with the electricity of her heart, causing her to have bad heart rhythm,” says pediatric cardiologist Peter Dean, MD.
Scout was admitted to a hospital near her home in Hanover County. After 2 weeks, the hospital transferred her to UVA.
The Stifflers knew that was the right decision. U.S. News & World Report has ranked UVA’s pediatric cardiology and heart surgery services in its “Best Children’s Hospital” guide since 2016. UVA also has the largest fetal heart program in Virginia.
Scout’s doctors decided to do an ablation procedure. This would surgically destroy small areas of heart tissue that cause irregular heartbeats. At 3 weeks old, Scout would have been the youngest child in the U.S. to ever have this procedure.
But first, doctors tried medication. And the night before the ablation procedure, Scout’s heart began beating normally. She continued to take medication until she was two. More recently, her doctors told the Stifflers that Scout, now 7, is clear of any heart conditions.
Penn’s Story: Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome
Jen and Shawn had no reason to think they’d face congenital heart disease again. But when they had their third baby, Penn, she turned blue after birth. This time, the diagnosis was much more serious: Hypoplastic right heart syndrome with triscupid and pulmonary atresia.
Essentially, the right side of Penn’s heart hadn’t developed prenatally, according to pediatric cardiologist Thomas Albrecht, MD. It couldn’t effectively pump blood to the lungs, so her body couldn’t get enough oxygen.
“There was some real discussion as to what kind of outcome she would have,” Albrecht says.
Expert CHD Care
Our nationally-ranked Pediatric Heart Center sees kids throughout Virginia, through telemedicine and at regional clinics.
Once again, the Stifflers turned to UVA for their daughter’s care. Penn’s team, which included some of the doctors who took care of Scout, developed a 3-surgery plan.
The first was a catheter procedure that inserted a balloon into Penn’s right ventricle, allowing blood to flow in and out. Doctors hoped this would give her heart time to grow. And — “it worked beautifully!” Jen exclaims. Even better, Penn no longer needed the other two surgeries.
Watch the video to see how Scout and Penn are doing today.