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Doctors and nurses talk about the Fetal Heart Program at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. From referral and diagnosis, planning and delivery to treatment and the future, doctors and nurses are making great strides in the diagnosis and treatment of congenital heart defects. Use the links below to navigate through the series.
Narrator1: The Cardiac Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was created in about 1997, as a way of bringing together all of the areas of specialty dealing with children with congenital heart defects.
Narrator2: We, as a center, have the privilege to take care of a very large number of patients with congenital heart disease.
Denise D. Donaghue, RN: We had families coming into this really complex continuum of care, and we weren't beginning it early enough. We were starting when they came to the intensive care unit.
Jack Rychik, MD: And that's where we come in with the fetal heart program. Our objective is to make these diagnoses of heart disease as early as possible.
Denise D. Donaghue, RN: To assess the fetal heart, the function, the structures --
Jack Rychik, MD: To provide information to these families --
Denise D. Donaghue, RN: And to have them avail themselves of all the other resources that we want them to meet.
Micahel W. Bebbington, MD: So when they do come to the time where they're going to deliver, they can still celebrate the birth of their child and also know that that child's going to be cared for in the best way possible.
Denise D. Donaghue, RN: It's devastating for families to learn that they are carrying a baby that has congenital heart disease. This impacts the way they envision the future.
Jack Rychik, MD: And here with this devastating news of realizing that there's a birth defect of the heart in their fetus, all of that comes shattering down.
Kim Persick, parent: You're stunned, you know, you're shocked.
Lynne Ramsay, parent: The word really is shocking. It was just impossible to believe.
Donna Lamborne, parent: You're sitting there going, "What?"
Andrea Thrush, parent: "What do you mean there's something wrong with my child?"
Lynne Ramsay, parent: We felt so helpless and -- overwhelming. It was very scary.
Thomas L Spray, MD: We identified that families who knew about a child with a congenital heart defect in advance before delivery, first, had the ability to get more information and be more comfortable about their child. But, in addition, would enable us to have these children come in and be stabilized better before their surgical procedure or their other intervention that is necessary for their heart defect.
Jonathan J. Rome, MD: We recognized that heart disease doesn't start at birth. In most of these circumstances, it starts in the developing fetus. And so the concept of a fetal heart program is the idea of trying to diagnosis the problem before a child is born, and then at very least, you can prepare parents for what they're going to face.
Robert E. Shaddy, MD: Now we can look at the fetus at a very young age and be able to diagnose when there is a problem and then be able to track that fetus throughout pregnancy.
Denise D. Donaghue, RN: We introduced the Fetal Heart Program at Children's Hospital in may of 2001. So it's really not that old and even that's come a long way.
Sarah Tabbut, MD: From just being able to diagnose heart disease before the baby's born to actually being a program that can support parents with education and expectations.
Jack Rychik, MD: We provide a complete educational process -- complete educational experience.
Susan C. Nicolson, MD: To plan with that family the remainder of the woman's pregnancy all the way through to delivery and postnatal care of the baby.
Jack Rychik, MD: The earlier you can make this diagnosis, the better is the outcome going to be for these families.
Anthony Ramsay, parent: A lot of babies that aren't diagnosed early like we were actually have a lot of problems because they think the baby's okay and they go home and they start having--they start turning blue -- right, and then the baby's under distress and then bring him back and it's actually a very difficult operation at that point.
Sarah Tabbut, MD: The beauty of the fetal program is that the diagnosis is made in advance. The parents have an expectation about what's going to happen and we can keep the baby from getting sick. So you have a much better patient going to the operating room for their surgery.
Contact the Fetal Heart Program for more information