Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Week is observed annually from February 7-14.

Heart defects are the nation’s leading birth defect, affecting nearly 40,000 babies born each year. Thanks to advances in healthcare and the ingenuity of talented physicians, children born with congenital heart defects (CHDs) can go on to live full and healthy lives. This week and every week, HCA Healthcare seeks to advocate for the hearts of our littlest patients, and give hope to families affected by CHDs.

Dr. Kristine J. Guleserian, medical director of the Congenital Heart Surgery Center at Medical City Children’s Hospital

Dr. Kristine J. Guleserian has devoted her life to healing hearts with compassionate care. She brings a wealth of experience and surgical skills to HCA Healthcare neonates, infants, children and adults with congenital heart defects (CHDs). CHDs, problems with the structure of the heart that are present when a baby is born, affect approximately one in 100 births every year in the United States.

“The good news is that many babies diagnosed with congenital heart disease go on to live long and completely healthy lives,” notes Dr. Guleserian, who serves the North Texas community as the medical director of the Congenital Heart Surgery Center at HCA Healthcare affiliate Medical City Children’s Hospital.

“The skill of the surgeon correcting the heart defect and the medical team providing care for the patient are incredibly important for a successful recovery,” adds Dr. Guleserian.

Seeing patients thrive, sometimes after only one surgical procedure, motivates our highly-skilled teams to raise the bar using advanced surgical strategies and techniques.

Mending Karmen’s heart

Shateria Chambers’ daughter, Karmen, was born with an interrupted aortic arch (IAA), a rare heart condition that occurs when the aorta does not form properly and affects blood flow to the body, and a large hole in her heart called a ventricular septal defect (VSD). At just one week of age, Karmen underwent an interrupted aortic arch repair and ventricular septal defect closure surgery.

Shateria had no idea her daughter would be born with these congenital heart defects. Shortly after Karmen was born, her heart rate increased and her breathing became rapid. Her doctors heard a murmur, and a heart ultrasound revealed the defects that required heart surgery. Thanks to expert pediatric heart surgery and skilled intensive care, Karmen is thriving after a full recovery and is already enjoying a normal childhood.

“I have always heard great things about Medical City Children’s Hospital,” said Shateria. “I found this hospital at just the right time to help my firstborn child, and I’m glad I did.”

Dr. Kristine J. Guleserian with Shateria Chambers and her daughter, Karmen
Dr. Kristine J. Guleserian with Shateria Chambers and her daughter, Karmen

Stay alert: Signs that your baby may be in trouble

Many babies have symptoms to indicate a heart defect. However, some babies have no signs of a heart problem at all after they are born. In those who do, symptoms can be:

  • A bluish tint to the skin, fingernails and lips
  • Fast or noisy breathing
  • Fast heart rate
  • Poor feeding and/or poor weight gain
  • Sweating
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Cool feet
  • Lung infections

Medical City Children’s Hospital, a part of HCA Healthcare’s Medical City Healthcare, is a 220-bed comprehensive and specialized children’s hospital providing advanced pediatric health care for young patients of all ages, from newborns to teenagers. Pediatric specialties at Medical City Children’s Hospital include pediatric emergency services, care for congenital heart conditions, pediatric cancer care (hematology and oncology), pediatric orthopedics, neurosurgery, craniofacial surgery, pediatric transplant and kidney care, and a Level IV NICU — the highest level of NICU care available in Dallas.