Children's Emergency Department is now located in Children's Tower: 1001 E. Marshall Street.

Learn more
View alerts close
Genesis’ story: Collaborative congenital heart surgery
February 01, 2023
CHoR heart patient Genesis with her mom and Dr. Kerri Carter

    Montana Powell learned when she was 20 weeks pregnant that her baby had a hole in her heart. While this wasn’t Montana’s first child, it was her first time facing the intimidating reality that her baby would need major heart surgery shortly after birth. Thankfully, she didn’t have to travel far to get the perfect pediatric heart care for her little love.

    CHoR and UVA Children’s provide the best heart care in the ideal location

    With other children to care for, staying close to home was important for Montana—and the timing couldn’t have been better. CHoR and UVA Children’s had recently developed a collaboration, combining expertise and resources to provide the best pediatric heart surgery as close to families’ homes and support networks as possible. For some families, that means surgery at UVA Children’s in Charlottesville is the best option. For Montana and her baby, CHoR was the right place.

    “We don’t want patients to leave the area to have congenital heart surgery. Our results are as good as, if not better than, anywhere in the country and we would prefer to keep these patients at home,” said Dr. James Gangemi, pediatric congenital heart surgeon who does operations at both hospitals.

    To provide these services statewide, CHoR partners with UVA Children’s, part of the 20th ranked Virginia Congenital Cardiac Collaborative. Since the partnership began, the team has provided surgical care to 19 babies and children at CHoR, with exceptional outcomes and follow-up care close to home.

    Fixing a hole in baby’s heart—What happens during congenital heart surgery?

    “Genesis was born with an AV canal defect, which is very common in babies with Down syndrome. It essentially means that the pieces of the heart that are supposed to grow together to separate the right side and the left side don’t fully form, leaving a communication between the bottom two pumping chambers and the top two collecting chambers,” said Dr. Kerri Carter, Genesis’ cardiologist.

    An atrioventricular canal defect allows extra blood flow to the lungs, causing the heart to work harder than it should. If left untreated, it can lead to heart failure. Repairing a complete atrioventricular canal defect involves open heart surgery to close the hole between the atria and the two ventricles.

    “Then we have to reconstruct that one valve that separates the atrium and ventricle into two separate valves—what becomes the mitral valve and what becomes the tricuspid valve,” added Dr. Gangemi. “I always tell parents that babies tolerate this surgery better than the adults do.”

    In addition to Dr. Gangemi’s unsurpassed skill in the operating room and postoperative follow-up care in Richmond, Montana is grateful for Dr. Carter’s knowledgeable guidance and continuing care. Genesis will see Dr. Carter for the foreseeable future are she heals and grows.

    Back to the basics – Genesis tackles babyhood

    Genesis was in the hospital for a couple weeks after surgery so the team could tend to her draining fluid, help her get back to eating, etc. By the time she went home, she was doing much better and was ready to tackle all the hard work involved with being a baby.

    “She’s rolling over. She’s kicking. She’s babbling,” said Montana. “Before heart surgery she just slept for hours and hours and hours. She struggled to eat, but now she’s finishing her bottles. I can sleep so much better knowing that her heart is repaired.”

    Watch Genesis’ heart surgery story

    Subscribe to our blog

    Sign Up