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Health Team

Duke Children's Hospital Offers Help to Pedriatic Heart Patients

Posted February 12, 2007 3:54 p.m. EST
Updated February 13, 2007 9:22 a.m. EST

— The Mix 101.5 WRAL-FM Radiothon for Duke Children's Hospital raises money for research, training and patients' every-day needs. One family credits Duke for saving the life of a loved one.

Nathaniel Symonds is only a little more than a month old, yet he's been through so much, including surgery on his heart soon after birth. Rick and Kim Symonds' ordeal began during a routine ultrasound early in pregnancy.

"They could tell with the ultra-sound that something was not quite right with the heart," said Kim Symonds.

Doctors at Duke Children's Hospital told the couple Nathaniel had hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

"It's a spectrum where essentially you're left with only one pumping chamber, functionally one pumping chamber in the heart," said Duke pediatric cardiologist Dr. Piers Barker.

A normal heart has two pumping chambers. Nathaniel's left ventricle and aorta that feeds blood to the lower body are very small. Health experts said it is a rare defect that used to leave families without hope.

"I mean 20 years ago, this diagnosis was certain death -- fatal," said Rick Symonds.

Duke is one of the few pediatric heart centers prepared to help babies like Nathaniel.

"They had to go in and sort of re-wire the heart so that it could pump the blood the way that it was supposed to," said Kim Symonds.

Nathaniel will need two more surgeries with the next one coming in about a month.

"The final goal being separating all the blue blood from all the pink blood so he can have a normal oxygen level," Barker said.

So far, doctors said Nathaniel is doing great and his future looks bright with certain precautions. Strenuous sports are out of the question.

"That's OK because he can do a lot of other recreational sports. He can do other less strenuous sports," Barker said.

"There's no reason to think that he can't lead a great productive life," said Kim Symonds.

Last year's Radiothon raised almost $900,000. They are hoping to top that with Tuesday's event.