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Fetal Cardiology: Hazel's Story

Children’s Mercy—the best care for Hazel’s heart

Not knowing. Nothing is worse when you’re dealing with the health of your child—especially your unborn child. That’s how Leigh Anna Moffet and her husband, Charles, felt when they learned their first child might have a serious heart defect. 

“We had gone to my obstetrician in Topeka for a routine ultrasound. I was 20 weeks pregnant,” Leigh Anna said. “At our next check-up, they said they wanted to take a closer look at a couple of things the sonographer was concerned about. We are so thankful they did.”

What caught the sonographer’s attention was a possible heart defect. After an appointment with a maternal-fetal specialist, the Moffets were referred to the Elizabeth J. Ferrell Fetal Health Center at Children’s Mercy Kansas City for more testing.  

The Fetal Health Center was one of the first five in the nation inside a children’s hospital. The staff has delivered nearly 1,000 high-risk babies. More than one-third have had complex heart disease.  

“We were pretty scared,” Leigh Anna admits. “We didn’t know how long it would take to get in to see someone, or what was wrong with our baby.”

But that evening, Leigh Anna received a comforting call from Bryan Beaven, nurse coordinator for Fetal Cardiology at Children’s Mercy.  

“Bryan asked me how I was doing,” Leigh Anna recalled. “He could tell I was not okay, and asked me what I was doing the next day. He worked us into their schedule somehow.”

A crash course in heart defects

Leigh Anna and Charles were in shock as they made the 90-minute drive from their home in Valley Falls, Kan., to Children’s Mercy the next day. “We had no idea what to expect,” she said.

But their fears were relieved after meeting with one of the Fetal Health Center's pediatric cardiologists, who performed a specialized ultrasound to examine their baby's heart.

“The doctor explained that they could see a hole between the two bottom chambers of the heart, or a ventricular septal defect. They thought our baby also might have a hypoplastic aortic arch, but it was difficult to tell while she was still in the womb. The doctor said it was serious, but could be fixed with surgery.”

That’s when the Moffets got a crash course in fetal heart defects, learning that with a ventricular septal defect, blood flows freely from one ventricle to another through the hole. Over time, the defect can cause an enlarged heart and heart failure. 

A hypoplastic aortic arch is a rare condition where the infant is born with an underdeveloped left side of the heart. This restricts blood flow to the rest of the body. Both conditions are very serious and often occur together, but no one knows why.

To monitor their baby’s condition, the Moffets made the trip to Children’s Mercy every month for a fetal cardiac ultrasound. Following each ultrasound, they met with the members of the Fetal Health Center team, including a fetal cardiologist, neonatologist, social worker, nursing staff and heart surgeon.  

Staying together

To be certain that Leigh Anna and her baby could stay together as much as possible, the team planned for her to give birth in the Children’s Mercy Fetal Health Center. The center was designed to offer healthy moms, like Leigh Anna, the care they need before, during and after delivery, allowing them to deliver their high-risk infants in an environment where mother and baby can stay in the same hospital, regardless of the newborn’s condition.  

“It was important to me to be with my baby as much as possible,” Leigh Anna said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do that at any other hospital.”

Because she had an otherwise healthy pregnancy, Leigh Anna was able to schedule her delivery at 39 weeks of pregnancy. Hazel Moffet made her entrance into the world via C-section on Feb. 20, 2017, weighing 8 lbs., ½ oz., and measuring 21 inches long.

“The nurses in the Fetal Health Center were great,” Leigh Anna said. “As soon as Hazel was born, they checked her over, then let Charles bring her to me so that we could all be together before taking her to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.”

A big surgery for a tiny heart

Another ultrasound confirmed Hazel indeed had a hypoplastic aortic arch and a hole between the bottom two chambers of her heart.

When Hazel was only 8 days old, a Children’s Mercy pediatric heart surgeon, repaired both heart defects in the same operation. Following surgery, Hazel spent two weeks in the hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, then transferred to 4 Sutherland for her last few days at Children’s Mercy.

“Surprisingly, the biggest problem we had following surgery was getting Hazel to eat,” Leigh Anna said. “Otherwise, she recovered well, and it doesn’t look like she’ll need any other surgeries.”

Though Hazel spent the first few weeks of her life at Children’s Mercy, the Moffets look back now in amazement at their smiling toddler. 

“Hazel has grown and developed just like other children her age,” Leigh Anna said. “Other than the four-inch scar on her chest and check-ups every six months to be sure her heart stays healthy, you would never know she’s had a problem.

“It’s pretty amazing that the little girl we hoped and prayed would just be okay, is the same little girl who’s running around outside, laughing and playing ball,” Leigh Anna said.

“We are so thankful for everyone we encountered along the way at Children’s Mercy. I always felt like they knew who we were and cared about how Hazel was doing. It was a big comfort to know we had such a great team around us. Children’s Mercy was the right place to get the best care for Hazel.”

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