Pediatric Cardiac Surgery Patient Stories

Read inspiring stories of hope from patients and families treated at Nicklaus Children's Hospital.

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Madison's Success Story

Madison was born with a heart defect called truncus arteriosus. Despite having open-heart surgery at Nicklaus Children's when just 4 years old, she hasn't slow down one bit. From an early age she's enjoyed dancing, even competing. Now, she's in the race for the title of Miss Florida Teen USA! Read this story.

Patient of the Month: Kai

Jackie and Rob received unfortunate news that their second baby, Kai, had been diagnosed with congenital heart defects. Surprisingly, Kai's mother Jackie had underwent heart surgery when she was as a young teenager as well. Not only did she receive treatment at Nicklaus Children's, then Miami Children's Hospital, but the same surgeon that had treated Jackie, Dr. Redmond Burke, would later be called upon alongside the entire team at The Nicklaus Children’s Heart Institute to ensure Kai's successful open-heart surgery.  Read this story.

Jacob's Success Story

Before he was born, Jacob was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Overcoming multiple surgeries, he started experiencing seizures and even had a stroke. Now, with a combination of medications that helped him manage his seizures and keep his heart rate stable, Jacob is attending high school for students with special abilities and enjoys cooking and dancing. Read this story.

Yuray's Heart Story

Yuray Rodriguez was only 15 days old when he underwent heart surgery at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital to repair a condition known as Coaction of the Aorta, a narrowing of the aorta that can lead to heart failure and high blood pressure. Now in college, one would never know he was born with a serious heart defect, if it wasn’t for a scar that runs down his chest. Read this story.

Patient of the Month: Kateryna

After being diagnosed with a heart defect in her home country of Ukraine, Kateryna needed surgery for treatment and full recovery. Then, because of the war, her family fled while still seeking medical. Finally, the family was referred to Dr. Daniel Duarte, a pediatric interventional cardiologist at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. Read this story.

Cardiac Catheterization Procedure Helps Jackson's Start to Life

Baby Jackson, born after only 24 weeks of gestation, was very fragile and required oxygen around the clock. His parents were referred to Nicklaus Children's Hospital to repair his patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) a congenital heart defect that occurs commonly in premature infants. Read this story.

High School Wrestler Saved After Experiencing Cardiac Arrest

Shortly after his 17th birthday, Miami Southridge Senior High School athlete Javon underwent cardiac arrest during wrestling practice. Thanks to the fast actions and lifesaving efforts of the athletic staff and their use of an automated external defibrillator (AED), Javon's heart was stabilized and he was transferred to Nicklaus Children's Hospital for care. 

  Read this story.

Eric Undergoes Less-Invasive Heart Valve Replacement with FDA-Approved Harmony Transcatheter Pulmonary Valve

Eric was born with critical pulmonary valve stenosis, a defect affecting the heart valve that connects the heart and lungs. He was only a week old when he underwent his first heart procedure, balloon dilation of a narrowed heart valve in his heart via cardiac catheterization. By his late teens, Eric was approaching the next step in his heart journey, a valve replacement for his pulmonary valve.  Read this story.

Patient of the Month: Alexandra

Born prematurely and with heart complications, Alexandra was described as a miracle baby. Just months old, she experienced respiratory distress and was eventually airlifted to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital to undergo multiple surgeries. Read this story.

Gabrien's Story

During a routine ultrasound early in her pregnancy, Rebecca Jones and her husband Brent were devastated to learn there was something wrong with their baby’s heart. The expectant parents learned their baby, Gabrien, had a rare heart defect called transposition of the great arteries, a condition in which the two main arteries leaving the heart are reversed. Their obstetrician referred them to Dr. David Drossner, a pediatric cardiologist and director of outpatient cardiology at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.  Read this story.

Surgeons Use Mixed Reality to Plan Rosemaylee's Complex Heart Surgery

Rosemaylee has always been an active child. The 13-year-old’s cheerleading activities came to an abrupt halt when her pediatrician noticed a heart murmur that had previously gone undetected. Further evaluation revealed she had a serious and complex heart condition. The Advanced Projects Laboratory at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital created multiple three dimensional models of her heart to plan the complicated surgery. Read this story.

Alia's New Beginning

Alia is one of the smallest babies to undergo open-heart surgery and one of the tiniest in the world to survive and thrive after her complex operation. Baby Alia faced several life-threatening problems when she was born three months early, creating unique new challenges even for veteran congenital heart surgeon, Dr. Redmond Burke. Read this story.

Patient of the Month: Ezra

Ezra was diagnosed with several heart defects and needed immediate corrective surgery. After being airlifted to Nicklaus Childrens Hospital, the Division of Cardiovascular Surgery team was ready and waiting. Since that first visit, Ezra has undergone two successful heart surgeries and will need an additional operation to accommodate his recent growth, but he's on track to living a happy, healthy life! Read this story.

Patient of the Month: Lavondre

At three weeks old, baby Lavondre was diagnosed with Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD), which means he had a hole in the wall that separates the right and left lower chambers of the heart, and he needed surgery to survive. Read this story.

Adrien: First Baby Born at Nicklaus Children's Hospital

Emily Granados was 20 weeks pregnant with her third child when she found out something was wrong with his little heart.  Read this story.

Jarel Santiago: A Cardiac and ENT Success Story

Jarel was born healthy, according to the doctors, but in the days following his birth, Maria Lourdes and her husband began having concerns about Jarel’s breathing. His respiration was rapid and he seemed to have trouble breathing. Read this story.

Patient of the Month: Juan Diego

After a completely normal pregnancy in Nicaragua, Juan Diego was born with blue skin and shortness of breath. He was immediately diagnosed with a congenital heart disease and given a 50% chance of life if mom and dad didn’t seek treatment. Check out how far Juan Diego has come with the help of the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Heart Institute! Read this story.

Killian Basketball Player Has Heart of a Champion

Toniyah Washington grew up on the basketball court. It is her passion, but four years ago this week, Washington underwent life-saving surgery and her road to recovery provided more challenging than you could imagine. Read this story.

Patient of the Month: McKenna

Imagine going through most of your pregnancy with hopes of having a surprise gender reveal at birth, just to be told your baby girl will be born with heart complications during one of your last ultrasound appointments. Read this story.

A Medical Miracle: Ayden's Story

After a normal full-term pregnancy with no complications, Shenequa gave birth to Ayden via C-section in May 2017 in the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Shortly after, the baby's pediatrician detected a murmur, but with no pediatric cardiologist on the island, Ayden was airlifted to Nicklaus Children's Hospital.

Read this story.

Brenden's Story: A Matter of the Heart

Brenden was only days old when he was diagnosed with a hole in his heart. His parents traveled all the way from Naples on the West Coast of Florida to plan for his surgery with the Heart Institute at Nicklaus Children's Hospital. Read this story.

Saving Teegan: From Minnesota to Miami in Search of Hope

Though Teegan grew only a few pounds during her first three months, a stark contrast to her twin sister, the critically ill baby stunned her family and pediatrician with each day she survived. Her will to live spurred her family to search for a miracle. Read this story.

Willow's Journey to a Healthy Heart

Hearing about any type of unexpected diagnosis can be incredibly overwhelming for parents, let alone an unusual or rare abnormality like a tumor in their child's heart. Read this story.

Patient of the Month: Chad

While on a father-son fishing trip in the Florida Keys, Chad, 3, was playing and swinging from the rope of a nautical wood pole when the 200-pound object came crashing down onto his chest, sending him into a state of cardiac arrest. Read this story.

A Child's Journey: Olivia's Story

Olivia was born with a congenital heart defect, her first open heart surgery was scheduled just days after she took her first breath. Olivia's parents placed their trust in the hands of The Heart Institute at Nicklaus Children's Hospital. Read this story.

Li Travels all the way from Shanghai to Nicklaus Children’s for Management of his Complex Heart Condition

Li Hongyang, 37, traveled all the way from his hometown of Shanghai China to find the best possible care for his complex heart condition. What he did not expect is that he would receive his lifesaving treatment at a children’s hospital. Read this story.

Infant flown from Puerto Rico days after Hurricane Maria for Lifesaving Surgery

Naialee Perez had just given birth to her first child, a baby boy named Liam, when a category five hurricane was making its way towards her hometown in the island of Puerto Rico. Liam was on a ventilator and undergoing treatment for a congenital heart defect in Hospital del Niño in San Juan while those on the island prepared for what would become one of the most catastrophic hurricanes in its history. Read this story.

Patient of the Month: Luife

While he was still inside his mother’s womb, Luife was diagnosed with transposition of the great arteries, a congenital heart defect. Shortly after birth, Luife was taken by ambulance to the cardiac team at Nicklaus Children’s. The pediatric cardiology team took Luife’s heart apart, piece by delicate piece, and successfully, put it back together. Today, Luife is a healthy, active and outgoing 8-year-old boy who wears his “Scar of Honor” with pride.  Read this story.

Harry's Badge of Honor

Harry was admitted for heart surgery when he was only three years old. The life saving surgery and care he received in 1988, in what was then Miami Children's Hospital, has resulted in a fulfilling and accomplished adult life for this aspiring public servant. Read this story.

Patient of the Month: Justin

The moment Justin was born, his mother and father were faced with the most daunting and challenging experience any parent can imagine. Just hours after birth, Justin was airlifted to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital for more specialized pediatric care. Having been diagnosed with pulmonary atresia and tetralogy of Fallot, he required immediate attention before it was too late. Read this story.

Patient of the Month: Victoria

Meet Victoria, our June Patient of the Month! Before birth, Victoria, was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). While Victoria's mother was pregnant with her, the left side of her heart did not form correctly, causing an urgent need for surgery just after birth to help restore its function, or Victoria would die.  Read this story.

Christina's Success Story (PDA)

Christina was born with a variety of medical complications and congenital heart defects. She is now a 23 year pursuing a dental career. The Heart Institute and Nicklaus Children's Hospital provided the care she needed when she was a baby, and for that, they will always hold a special place in her heart. Read this story.

Patient of the Month: Theodore

When she was just 18 weeks pregnant, Micheleen, learned that her baby would be born with a congenital heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), in which the left side of the heart is severely underdeveloped, as well as a cleft palate and cleft lip. Read this story.

Camila Dances Away from Congenital Heart Disease

Camila Parra, 17, is too busy dancing to think about the fact that she could have become a tragic statistic. She had been feeling some fatigue when participating in her rigorous dance program. After a free heart screening, Camila and her mother were stunned to learn that the teen's echocardiogram was abnormal. Read this story.

Baby Grace Beats All Odds Despite Rocky Start to Life

Grace was transferred to Nicklaus Children’s for what referring doctors believed were complications associated with neonatal sepsis. Soon after, the care team learned Grace had an enlarged failing heart due to hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a complex congenital heart defect that essentially means the baby was born with half a heart.  Read this story.

Patient of the Month: Anabella

​Meet our April Patient of the Month, Anabella. During an early check-up, Anabella was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition called atrial septum defect, or a hole in her heart. Read this story.

Patient of the Month: Lukas

As a newborn, Lukas was in cardiac arrest and brought to Nicklaus Children's Hospital, where he underwent open heart surgery and placed on a Cardiopulmonary Bypass Machine, which stabilized his condition. Read this story.

Baby J's Journey

Only a short week after been born, Baby J began to show signs of distress. A visit to the pediatric cardiologist revealed his heart was very sick. He was transferred to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital to await surgery for a crucial coarctation of the aorta. Read this story.

Patient of the Month: Teegan

Once the cardiac team met with Teegan and her family, the doctors realized that this was a case unlike any they had seen before. From before birth she had been diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and then they realized that she had a little less than half a heart and only one lung. Teegan's doctors and her parents knew she had a long road to recovery, but they were prepared to do whatever it takes to get her there. Read this story.

How 3D printers saved a four year old girl's life

Every human heart is different, and 3D printing is a changing the world of surgery by providing surgeons exact replicates. Read this story.

Nicklaus Children's Hospital uses Stratasys' 3D printing technology to save a young girl's life

Mia was born with an abnormal aortic arch. It's a rare congenital heart disorder, that can be difficult to diagnose. Children like Mia are often deemed "inoperable". Nicklaus Children's Hospital's Heart Program used 3d printing technology to plan her complex cardiac surgery and find a solution to save her life. Mia is now a very active girl that loves dancing and baseball, she can go back to living her life to the fullest. Read this story.

Patient of the Month: Andrew

Andrew Lorenzen had always been a healthy, happy child, who enjoyed playing all types of sports. So, when his mom brought him to Nicklaus Children's to get a free EKG screening, neither of them believed the results would actually come back showing something was wrong with Andrew. Imagine their shock when after the screening, Andrew's mom received a call from the hospital telling her to take Andrew in immediately because they found he had a rare condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. Read this story.

Nicolas' Success Story

Nicolas was born in Peru with an aortic coarctation and had an emergency surgery when he was 3 weeks old. A local pediatrician monitored him closely and was in constant contact with Nicklaus Children's Hospital, whom he had recommended for most of his complicated heart patients. Nicolas underwent a valve procedure at Nicklaus Children's Hospital and received excellent care in the ICU. Read this story.

Patient of the Month: Gaetano

Just four months after being born, Gaetano already knows what it means to fight for his life. At birth, doctors discovered he had a right-side congenital diaphragmatic hernia and pulmonary hypertension, meaning the muscle separating his heart and lungs from the lower abdominal organs did not develop completely while he was in the womb. Read this story.

Caden's Success Story

Caden was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome – which essentially means he was born with half a heart. His parents did their research and decided to trust his care to the Nicklaus Children's Heart Program. Caden had his first open-heart surgery with Dr. Redmond Burke when he was a few days old. Over the span of three years Caden underwent three open-heart surgeries and two cardiac catheterizations. Read this story.

Anthony & Christopher's Success Story

My brother Anthony and I are twins with heart problems. We are very glad that Dr. Richard Zakheim was our doctor for a long time. We wanted to thank him and the staff at his office for the care we received. Read this story.

Patient of the Month: Nathan

Nathan’s mom went in for what was supposed to be a normal ultrasound and instead discovered that her son’s heart had serious complications. In most places Nathan would not have survived, but he was referred to Nicklaus Children's Hospital, where the Cardiac team not only rebuilt his heart, they gave him the opportunity to grow as a healthy, happy child.  Read this story.

Ava's Success Story

Ava was a healthy, energetic 2 year old until one evening, she complained of belly pain when she laid down. The next day, her mom noticed Ava was lethargic, very thirsty for water and refused to drink milk, so she took her to the pediatrician and was referred to the Nicklaus Children's Hospital Cancer Center. Read this story.

Gianna's Success Story

At just 4 years old, Gianna has had 3 open-heart surgeries at Nicklaus Children's Hospital (NCH). Her parents were comforted by the incredible staff of doctors and nurses at NCH and thanks to them, Gianna will be able to live a full life. Read this story.

Thomas's Success Story

On August 28 2011 Thomas experienced Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). He was hospitalized at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, and was put on medication. A few weeks later he had a heart cath with an ablation. Read this story.

Brisa's Success Story

Little Brisa Gutierrez-Guerrero started life with a severely broken heart, and her frailty seemed destined to break her mother’s heart as well. Brisa had only one lung and so many heart defects that physicians in the north Florida community where she was born in October 2011 encouraged her mother to prepare to say farewell to the tiny newborn. Read this story.

Brenna's VSD Success Story

Brenna was diagnosed with a moderate sized VSD before she was born. At six months old she was finally big enough to undergo the VSD repair. She is now doing fantastic and is a very happy and active one and a half year old. Read this story.

Rosa's Success Story

I had heart surgery at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, in 1996 to repair an atrial septum defect. Dr. Richard Zakeihm was my cardiologist. Read this story.

Natalie's Miracle Story

At just four days old, Natalie came down with a bad case of jaundice and dehydration. She was scheduled to see Dr. Ana Paredes for hydronephosis of her left kidney. Tests showed that she was born with congenital heart defects, more specifically Shone's complex. Within the hour, Natalie was transferred to cardiac intensive care, where she waited to undergo open heart surgery. Read this story.

Janiery's Success Story

Janiery was born May 16th, 2003 with a double outlet right ventricle with sub-pulmonary stenosis and transposition of the great vessel. Thanks to the cardiac team of doctors and the man with the hands of miracles, Dr. Hannan, today she is seven and has had all of her surgeries. Read this story.

Martina's Success Story

Martina has down syndrome and a cardiac condition. Her picture with seventeen teddy bears she received at Nicklaus Children's Hospital after a successful open heart surgery done in 1998 was part of the fifty years anniversary campaign of Nicklaus Children's Hospital. Read this story.

Melissa's Success Story

Melissa was born on July 16, 1992 and was diagnosed with a Double Outlet Right Ventricle. She was taken to Nicklaus Children's Hospital for all her tests, which included x-rays, echo's, ekg's, heart catheterizations, and blood work. Also, many times she was taken to the emergency room for care. Each time she had a catheterization done she was admitted to the short stay unit. Read this story.

Alexander's Success Story

In January 13, 2005 Alexander was born with a congenital heart problem that would require open heart surgery as soon as possible. He was transferred to Nicklaus Children's Hospital's, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, emergency cardiology department. Read this story.

Jake's Success Story

Jake was born at Hollywood Memorial West. About five hours after his birth they discovered he had some heart problems. By the next day he was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare congenital heart defect in which the left side of the heart is severely underdeveloped. That same day he was taken by helicopter to the best hospital in the world—Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital. Read this story.

Victoria Rose Success Story

Victoria Rose was born with asymmetric crying facies in conjunction with a congenital heart disease (a small atrial septal defect) and developmental delay in speech, feeding and some physical setbacks along with sensory disorder. It has been a very long road for Vicky and her family as they have seen her change for the better throughout the past year upon receiving speech and physical therapy from Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital. Read this story.

Jonas' Success Story

Jonas was born with a condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare congenital heart defect in which the left side of the heart is severely underdeveloped. He was diagnosed a little more than twenty four hours after birth. He was then  airlifted to Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, where he had the first of three surgeries to repair his heart. Read this story.

Brittany's Success Story

Brittany was born 22 years ago with a life-threatening heart defect called a double outlet right ventricle. She was admitted to Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, at birth because she needed immediate surgery to save her life. Because of her complex problem, she needed three other heart operations over the next seven years. Read this story.

Cristina's Success Story

Cristina was admitted in 1974 for heart complications. Now an adult, she had to admit her own daughter for jaundice. She feels there is no better hospital for her and her family. Read this story.

Lomaun's Success Story

Lomaun, was born on February 17th, 1993. He was not due for another six weeks. He was going into fetal distress with every contraction and was delivered via Cesarean Section. He had many complications and washe was very sick. An ambulance came and took him to Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital. A portion of the problems were: A hole in his heart, an enlarged liver, and only one kidney due to the other being atrophied. He was 8 pounds and 3 ounces at birth, despite being so very early. He "coded" twice, and both times the medical staff brought him back from certain death. Read this story.

Kai's Success Story

Kai, who was 15 weeks old, started having fits. He was taken to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, where they discovered a rare and dangerous heart defect. The doctors said Kai needed to be airlifted to Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, as soon as possible as they didn’t know how long he had left to live before his heart stopped working. Read this story.

Leila's Heart Surgery Success Story

Leila was born with three serious heart defects. At three months old, Dr. Redmond Burke performed open-heart surgery to correct her condition.Leila is now 15 months old and extremely healthy thanks to her wonderful doctors. Read this story.

Navaeh's Success Story

Nevaeh began her life with heart defect. She was just three months old when we began seeing Dr. Nancy C. Dobrolet (cardiologist) and Joann Nieves (nurse-practitioner). On Jan. 6, 2009, Dr. Burke performed open-heart surgery that she needed. Nevaeh is now doing great. Read this story.

Anthony's Success Story

Little Anthony was only days old when doctors in Sigonella, Italy, made a discovery that would send his family on an international trek in search of hope and healing. Born in Sicily, where his father was stationed with the U.S. Navy, Anthony’s tiny heart was so riddled with defects that Navy physicians advised the family to seek care. With the support of the U.S. Navy, the family’s search led them to The Congenital Heart Institute at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital – one of the leading heart programs in the nation known for its innovative techniques. Read this story.

Nathan's Heart Defect Success Story

Ethan Bortnick tells the story of how Dr. Redmon Burke and the team at Nicklaus Children's Hospital helped bring back his baby brother, Nathan, back to life. Nathan was born with a hypoplastic left heart syndrome, the most devastating heart defect a baby can have. Read this story.

Daniel's Success Story

Daniel was working hard to fulfill his dream of winning a sports scholarship to a prominent university, when suddenly those plans seemed to unravel. Read this story.

David's Miracle Story

David had a hole in his heart and that the artery that feeds blood to the lungs was partially blocked. The medical term for this is Tetralogy of Fallot. David started this adventure at 15 pounds. David was discharged on Monday, April 22nd, 1996, six days after his operation. Read this story.

Ashley's Thank you Letter

A letter from Ashley, a patient of Dr. Burke and Dr. Zoen. Read this story.

Myranda's Success Story

The Parents of Myranda (8 months old) Open Heart Surgery Patient October 2, 1995 at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital Dr. Redmond Burke, Chief, Cardiovascular Surgery. Read this story.

Jordan's Success Story

Jordan was born with Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD), which means he had a hole his heart that caused more blood to pump to his left lung than to his right. During the first three months of his life, his breathing was very labored, he barely ate and was taking several medications. When he was three months old and only 10 pounds he underwent open-heart surgery to repair his heart. The result was unbelievable. After surgery, he no longer needed breathing support. His surgeon, Dr. Robert Hannan, sent him home four days later. Read this story.

Parker's Success Story

Parker is not yet 2 years old, but he's already living up to his name. Within a month of his birth, doctors discovered the infant had multiple heart valve defects. The complications were so severe that at one point doctors considered him a candidate for a heart transplant. But thanks to Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital's internationally recognized Cardiovascular Surgery team - and a life-saving procedure never before performed on so young a child - Parker's heart is going strong. Read this story.

Analiah's Success Story

Baby Analiah Duarte Escorcia was born in February, Heart Month. Thanks to groundbreaking cardiovascular surgery performed at Nicklaus Children's Hospital, soon after her birth in 2012, she is now the poster child for a novel new procedure that seems poised to become the “holy grail” for children with heart valve defects. Little Analiah came into the world with one of the most devastating of heart defects, called Ebstein's Anomaly. Read this story.

Jillian's letter

Dear Dr. Burke
thank you for closing
the hole in my heart.
Your friend,
Jillian Read this story.

Ricki's letter

Hi Dr. Burke! I really, really want to see you but you are too busy.
All I wanted to say is that I love you and I really miss you. Read this story.

Xavier & Zachary's letter

To D. Burke, Dr. Zahn and Staff
Guess who just turned 4 years old? We did! Read this story.