Before he was even born, Georgie had a team of doctors waiting to meet him and care for him. He had been diagnosed with a single ventricle heart defect, meaning he was missing one of the four chambers of his heart. The team at the Children's Health℠ FETAL Center worked with his mother, Jessica, to make a plan for his birth and treatment.
"They were very good about explaining how things were going to happen after his birth," says Jessica. "It was all so new to us. I was in disbelief until I had him."
Georgie was born on August 17, 2015, weighing almost 9 pounds.
"I never expected he would weigh so much because my other two boys were 6-pound babies," says Jessica. "It was great because the doctors had said the more he weighed, the better for his care."
After birth, Georgie was immediately placed in an incubator and transported to the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) at Children's Health. Jessica got to see Georgie in his incubator before going to the CVICU.
"He looked so peaceful and wasn't even blue," says Jessica. "I expected it to be very different."
Georgie begins the journey to repair his heart defect
At just 4 days old, Georgie underwent his first open-heart surgery, the Norwood procedure. Because of his heart defect, too much blood was going to his lungs and making his heart work hard. This procedure balanced how much blood went to his lungs and how much went to his body. It combines two arteries and places a smaller artificial tube to allow blood flow to the lungs. Georgie also received a pacemaker.
The procedure went well. Georgie spent two months in the hospital before returning home. He was followed closely by Suren Reddy, M.D., a pediatric cardiologist at Children's Health and Associate Professor at UT Southwestern, as part of the Safe at Home program. With this program, babies are allowed to return home, though parents call in to the cardiology office every day so the care team can track important information like heart rate and blood pressure.
"I was so nervous about taking Georgie home," says Jessica. "I was used to being at the hospital and having help from nurses and doctors. I called for the silliest things, and they always reassured me. The Safe at Home program helped me keep everything in order."
A few months later, Georgie had his next open heart surgery, called the Glenn procedure. This procedure again changed how blood flowed to Georgie's lungs. Instead of going to his heart, blood from his upper body flows passively into the lungs to receive oxygen. This takes stress off of Georgie's heart.
Care and support after Georgie's Fontan procedure
In May 2019, when Georgie was almost 4, he had the last procedure planned for his heart repair, the Fontan surgery. This surgery redirects blood from the lower body straight to the lungs. With this passive blood flow, Georgie's heart does not have to pump hard.
Unfortunately, Georgie developed a rare and serious side effect of the Fontan surgery: plastic bronchitis. This is when lymph fluid builds up in the lungs and begins to block airways. It creates "casts" of the airways that can make it hard to breathe.
Dr. Reddy diagnosed the problem and called Yadira Rivera-Sanchez, M.D., a pulmonologist at Children's Health and Assistant Professor at UT Southwestern who specializes in the condition. Even though she was on vacation, she answered the call and made sure Georgie got the medication and care he needed, says Jessica. Georgie spent more time in the hospital until they could remove the casts from his airways and improve his breathing.
"Plastic bronchitis is a potentially life threatening complication of Fontan patients," explains Dr. Reddy. "Initial treatment includes aggressive pulmonary therapy, but if symptoms persist, patients require an innovative lymphatic occlusion procedure. Children's Health is one of the handful of pediatric hospitals in the United States performing this type of procedure. Luckily for Georgie, initial treatments worked, and his symptoms and the frequency of his casts got much better."
I know I can count on everyone at Children’s Health to be there for him.
Georgie shows superhero strength as he grows and thrives
Now, at 5 years old, Georgie has gone months without any bronchitis casts or complications. He can keep up with his older brothers, Sean and Mason. He's learning to play soccer and enjoys riding his scooter and his bike featuring his favorite superhero, Captain America.
Georgie's love for superheroes has helped him form a close bond with his own heart hero, Dr. Reddy. The two share a love for superheroes and comics.
"Georgie loves Dr. Reddy and is very comfortable with him," says Jessica. "He says Dr. Reddy is 'so cool.'"
"It's fantastic to see Georgie doing so well! I am very happy for him and his family," says Dr. Reddy. "The quiet, shy guy has disappeared. Georgie loves to interact with us in the Fontan Clinic. We will continue to watch his progress closely for recurrent plastic bronchitis and other complications of Fontan palliation."
Each year, Georgie's family celebrates the dates of his procedures as his "heartaversaries." Every milestone is a huge deal for Georgie, a sign that he is growing strong and healthy.
"Going forward, we hope that he continues doing so well," says Jessica. "I know I can count on everyone at Children's Health to be there for him."
Georgie's mom sends a special thank you to Timothy John Pirolli, M.D., cardiothoracic surgeon and Assistant Professor at UT Southwestern, for giving her son another chance at life.
"Georgie and my family appreciate him and all the doctors who have impacted our lives and have made all the difference. I know they always have his best interests at heart."
Learn more about the Heart Center
The nationally renowned team of pediatric cardiologists and subspecialists at Children's Health treat the whole spectrum of pediatric heart problems, with a commitment to excellence. Our Fontan Clinic is one of few in the country, designed specifically to treat patients with single-ventricle defects. Learn more about our Heart Center.