A Pair of Special Hearts
The Heart Institute cares for a mother and daughter born with heart disease
and her daugher Daisy
were both born with heart
Jessica Stratman-Rush and her daughter Daisy have more in common than most other mother-daughter duos. Beyond their blonde hair and outgoing personalities they also share a cardiologist and a unique set of scars.
Both Jessica and Daisy have congenital heart disease, meaning they were born with heart defects. Jessica, Daisy's mom, was born with a severe heart condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome almost 30 years ago. She was one of the first generation of patients to undergo a Fontan procedure to fix her heart at Children's Hospital Colorado in the 1980s. Jessica's daughter Daisy, now three years old, was also born with a heart condition, known as tetralogy of Fallot, and needed surgery to repair it after birth.
Better medicine leads to healthier moms and babies
Just 10 years ago, it was extremely rare for a woman with a congenital heart defect as severe as Jessica's to successfully have a child. But, as surgeries and medical care continue to improve, more women with heart defects are reaching adulthood and starting families -- although it is not always easy.
Baby Daisy at the hospital with her dad,
"They said I had a 50/50 chance of having Daisy," Jessica said. "But I've always had faith in what I do."
And Jessica does a lot. She is an avid snowboarder and world traveler. And although she is deaf and self-conscious about her writing ability, Jessica has started a memoir about her life.
"The day before I first met Jessica, she had just gone skydiving," said Jessica's husband, David Rush. "You can't help but think, 'How can someone with a serious heart condition do all of this [skydive]?'" David said.
Mom and daughter receive cardiac care at Children's Hospital Colorado
Jessica has been coming to Children's Colorado for treatment since she was two months old, when her hands and feet began turning blue (a condition known as cyanosis caused by not enough oxygen in the blood). As an adult, Jessica moved into the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program.
Our Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program is a combined effort between Children's Hospital Colorado and University of Colorado Hospital, which includes doctors from both institutions who are specially trained to work with adult survivors of childhood heart disease.
"Often these adolescent and adult patients fall into a gap," said Dr. Joseph Kay, director of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program. "Adult cardiologists don't receive much training about congenital heart disease, which is usually diagnosed and treated by pediatric cardiologists. Likewise, pediatric cardiologists aren't necessarily well-versed in adult heart issues like high blood pressure, cholesterol and pregnancy."
Adult patients with congenital heart disease require cardiologists who are trained in both, according to Dr. Kay.
The heart's important job during pregnancy
The mother-daughter duo
were both cared for at
Children's Hospital Colorado.
During pregnancy, a woman's cardiovascular system increases blood flow and the amount of blood in the body by making the heart pump harder to supply the baby with extra oxygen.
But some women with congenital heart disease, like Jessica, have an impaired ability to make that increase, which can lead to complications during pregnancy. These problems can include low birth weight, premature birth, maternal health problems or the loss of a pregnancy, Dr. Kay explained.
An entire team dedicated to mom and baby
Like other women with high-risk pregnancies, Jessica had a team of perinatologists (doctors who specialize in caring for mothers and babies during high-risk pregnancies) keeping track of her and Daisy's health. It was those perinatologists, along with our fetal cardiology team at Children's Colorado, who diagnosed Daisy with a congenital heart defect while she was still in the womb.
Daisy was born healthy, if a little small. She was out of the hospital a few days after her birth and didn't begin to develop symptoms from her congenital defect until about two months old, about the same age when Jessica first got sick.
"I'm always laid back about this stuff. But when Daisy was turning blue, I was nervous, but I felt prepared," Jessica said.
After heart surgery, Daisy gets back to being a kid
Daisy had an initial surgery and will probably need another before she becomes an adult. She is doing very well according to Dr. Kay, who cares for both Jessica and Daisy. And, like any 3-year-old, Daisy loves macaroni and cheese, all things Disney and looking at photos of herself, some from her time in the hospital.
"I tell her I have a special heart...and she has one to match," Jessica said.
Read more stories about patients at our Heart Institute.