Ventricular Septal Defect: Bridget's Story

It was 4:30 in the morning, and Bridget Franks, who had congenital heart disease, was wide awake in her hospital bed in a Philadelphia suburb. She had given birth to twins a week prior, but now her heart was failing — and she was terrified.

She picked up her phone and emailed Yuli Kim, MD, her cardiologist at the Philadelphia Adult Congenital Heart Center, a joint program of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Penn Medicine. Whatever happened next, she wanted Dr. Kim to be involved.

Comprehensive care during pregnancy

Bridget, now 32, had started seeing Dr. Kim about a year prior to her sons’ birth. She’d been followed by several cardiologists since being diagnosed with a ventricular septal defect at birth, but Dr. Kim was different — as medical director of the Philadelphia Adult Congenital Heart Center, she focuses exclusively on the needs of adult patients with congenital heart disease.

bridget and family During Bridget’s first appointment at the center, Dr. Kim explained to Bridget and her husband, Ed, what kind of follow-up would be needed if Bridget became pregnant, and how pregnancy would affect her heart.

“Dr. Kim took the time to educate both of us,” says Bridget. “Aside from being brilliant, she is also just so kind and down-to-earth and easy to talk to. She genuinely cares about her patients, and that comes across at every office visit. We’ve always felt that we’re in excellent hands, which is huge when it’s your health.”

Just a few months after that first appointment, Bridget was pregnant. Throughout her pregnancy, she was followed by a high-risk OB/GYN, who worked closely with Dr. Kim to coordinate Bridget’s care.

Bridget saw Dr. Kim every three months for a checkup and an echocardiogram and, at 24 weeks, she had a fetal echocardiogram to check on her sons’ hearts. “Things were looking good,” Bridget says. “But we were told things could change.”

Expert cardiac care for both mother and twins

Colin and Matthew were born via C-section on June 29, and at first all was well. But during her first night at home with her newborn sons, Bridget experienced some troubling symptoms.

“I couldn’t lie flat,” she says. “I was having a hard time breathing.”

She went to her local hospital, and the next day, just hours after sending that early-morning email to Dr. Kim, she was transferred to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP).

Bridget was suffering from peripartum cardiomyopathy, a very serious and sometimes fatal type of heart failure that is more common in women carrying twins. At HUP, she received medications to treat her condition and was monitored closely by the Heart Failure team; Dr. Kim, too, checked in on her often. She was discharged after a three-night stay.

Six weeks later, Bridget reached out to Dr. Kim again — this time for advice on finding a pediatric cardiologist for her twins, who had both been diagnosed with pulmonary valve stenosis, which typically cannot be detected by even the most advanced prenatal tests. The boys were already seeing CHOP pediatric ophthalmologist William Katowitz, MD, for an eye condition called ptosis, and Bridget and Ed had absolute confidence in the entire CHOP team.

“These are our boys’ hearts,” says Bridget, “and it doesn’t get more serious than that. We wanted the best care possible.”

At Dr. Kim’s recommendation, Bridget and Ed made an appointment with CHOP pediatric cardiologist Andrew Glatz, MD. They knew right away they had made the right decision.

“My husband and I felt very comfortable with Dr. Glatz,” says Bridget. “He’s extremely kind and very knowledgeable, and he’s excellent with the boys. He gave us the time we needed to understand the diagnosis that they had.”

Ongoing follow-up with the CHOP-Penn team

The twins, now 14 months old, see Dr. Glatz and Dr. Katowitz every few months, and Bridget, too, has regular follow-up appointments, both with the Heart Failure team at Penn and with Dr. Kim. She has made a full recovery from her peripartum cardiomyopathy, and her sons, she says, “are doing wonderfully” — thanks to the care they receive at CHOP.

“We’re very impressed with the CHOP team’s expertise and professionalism,” says Bridget.

We are so blessed to live in an area where top-notch healthcare institutions are right in our backyard. We are truly grateful to our CHOP-Penn care team.

Originally posted: September 2013

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