At the time of Eric’s birth in October 2011, an echocardiogram showed a serious heart condition. Cardiologists at two hospitals had differing opinions about which side of the heart had the more critical problem. That’s when Eric’s family turned to the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital, where a comprehensive echocardiogram showed the infant had complex congenital heart disease significantly affecting both sides of his heart.
“For the first time, we felt like more than just a number,” said Eric’s mother Alma. “We loved the hospital’s boutique feel and personal touches, like the echo technician stroking Eric’s head and the cardiologist playing classical music during the test.”
When Eric was just three months old, Gerhard Ziemer, MD, PhD, performed open-heart surgery on the left side of his heart. Due to the severity of the condition, the little boy’s chest needed to be left open for three days with a life support machine at his bedside.
“Our world came crashing down when we were told Eric might not pull through,” Alma said. “Our PICU nurses assured us everything was going to be okay and never left his side. Child Life specialists also comforted and helped us.”
Eric recovered and grew stronger. And he was able to go home from the hospital seven weeks later.
But when the pulmonary arteries on the right side of his heart failed to grow as expected, another open-heart surgery followed just over a year after the first one. The main pulmonary artery was widened and the entire pulmonary artery between his right and left lungs was replaced with artificial tubes.
“We were included in rounds and Dr. Ziemer spent hours answering our questions,” Alma said. “Everyone — from the valets and receptionists to the cleaning people — was so nice and warm to us.”