Concerned with her two-week-old son, Oliver’s feeding, Olivia Craig made an appointment with the pediatrician. She never imagined that her newborn son would be diagnosed with a congenital heart defect let alone three.
During the appointment, a nurse practitioner and his pediatrician discovered that Oliver had a heart murmur. “We were advised to head to Lurie Children’s to have Oliver’s heart further examined by specialists,” says Olivia. In what seemed like whirlwind, Olivia and her husband, Benjamin, soon learned that Oliver’s heart was enlarged and that there was no blood flow to his lower extremities.
“That evening we met with a cardiac intensivist who informed us that Oliver had three heart defects and that his case was very challenging,” says Olivia. “I remember sitting in the conference room unable to control my tears. After all, I was only two weeks postpartum. Both my husband and I were terrified and shocked to learn our baby boy was so sick.”
Oliver was immediately admitted to the Regenstein Cardiac Care Unit (CCU) at Lurie Children’s, a unit devoted to the care of young patients with cardiac disease and one of the few cardiac units of its kind in the nation. He was diagnosed with coarctation of the aorta, a narrowing of the major artery (the aorta) that carries blood to the body; ventricular septal defect (VSD), a hole in the wall separating the two lower chambers of the heart; and atrial septal defect (ASD), a hole in the wall that separates the top two chambers of the heart.
Not quite strong enough for open heart surgery, Oliver first underwent a closed heart surgery to repair his coarctation of the aorta. “Oliver’s cardiology team and nursing staff were miraculous and so compassionate not just to Oliver but to our entire family,” says Olivia. “Our daughter Anais, who at the time was just 2 years old, loved visiting the hospital, spending time on the CCU with her brother and playing on the firetruck on the 12th floor. She’s Oliver’s biggest fan.”
After a three week stay in the CCU, Oliver was discharged with the goal to gain weight in preparation for his open heart surgery to correct his VSD and ASD. “I was terrified to leave the hospital but the nurses were so encouraging and empowered us with the education we needed to care for Oliver at home. One nurse even told me, ‘The sooner you take Oliver home, the sooner he will thrive!’”
When Oliver was four months old, the Craigs learned he was ready for open heart surgery. “The time in the waiting room seemed like an eternity,” says Olivia. “I cannot express to you what was running through our minds. After seven hours, our surgeon came out and said ‘Congratulations, you have a healthy boy!’ Those words will resonate with me forever.”
“The ruminating thought: ‘Are we providing our son with the best care possible?’ lingers in our minds but Lurie Children’s puts this thought to rest,” says Olivia.
Oliver may require additional surgeries as he gets older but the best advice Olivia and her husband received was, “Do not treat him like a fragile child and he will thrive!” As part of his follow-up care, Oliver visits the Heart Center once a year for surveillance, an echo-cardiogram and EKG.
Today, Oliver, 5, is strong, energetic and full of life. Olivia says, “Oliver is our little warrior. We are so grateful to Lurie Children’s for saving our child’s life.”
Our Heart Center is the top-ranked pediatric heart center in Illinois and ranked #3 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
The Heart Center at Lurie Children’s provides the highest quality care for patients with the most complex and serious heart conditions. As the region’s largest children’s heart center, we care for more patients with cardiac conditions than any other hospital in Illinois. We use the most comprehensive heart evaluations and treatments to deliver high quality care from admission, to discharge, to follow-up. We provide cardiac care to pregnant mothers, infants, children and young adults, and our services range from cardiac disease prevention to heart transplantation