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Michael’s Outlook Is Excellent After Three Heart Surgeries

At just a few days old, Christerfer and Ashley Henderson received news from doctors about their son Michael that no parent ever wants to hear: Your child needs heart surgery—and soon.

boy smiling outside holding a beaded necklace

Shortly after Michael and his twin sister, Madison, were born, he was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). During that time, Robert Campbell, MD, a Pediatric Cardiologist at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, examined Michael’s heart murmur and determined that he was in congestive heart failure.

“He had a complex form of Tetralogy of Fallot and needed heart surgery,” Ashley says. “Michael was transferred to Children’s at just 2 weeks old, and at 17 days old, he had his first heart surgery.”

Tetralogy of Fallot is four congenital heart defects (CHD) that affect normal blood flow through the heart. It occurs when a baby’s heart does not form correctly in the mother’s womb during pregnancy.

Michael’s blood vessels that go to his lungs were too small, so the Children’s Heart Center team had to perform several surgeries and catheterizations to open his blood vessels as well the pathway from his heart to his lungs.

He had his second surgery at 5 months old and a third when he was 6 years old. “Six weeks after the third surgery, Michael started growing and gaining weight, and he was able to play baseball,” Ashley shares. “He noticeably had more energy.”

Michael also got to attend Camp Braveheart not long after surgery, which Ashley says helped give him confidence because he had a chance to be around other kids like him who have heart defects and heart conditions.

Today, Michael is healthy—enjoying baseball, golf, tennis and video games—and sees William T. Mahle, MD, a Pediatric Cardiologist and Co-Chief of the Children’s Heart Center, every six to nine months to monitor his heart and pulmonary arteries.

“We’re ready for the curve ball that we sometimes get thrown because we’ve seen so many versions of it,” adds Dr. Mahle.

The Children’s Heart Center, which is the largest pediatric program of its kind in the Southeast and performs more than 800 surgeries each year, treats about 40 children annually with tetralogy of Fallot.

“At six weeks when we found out we were pregnant with twins, they told us I would be lucky to make it to 16 weeks pregnant with one baby, let alone two,” Ashley recalls. “So, the fact that Michael is here is a miracle in and of itself.”

Hear Michael’s story

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As the largest cardiac program in the Southeast, the Children’s Heart Center provides leading treatment to infants, children and teenagers who have complex heart defects.

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