Life often presents challenges that test our faith, resilience and strength. For Demetric Fisher, her daughter Kaydan's health was such a test. Born on June 20, 2012, in Jackson, Miss., little Kaydan’s life led her family on an emotional rollercoaster that would shape their lives for years to come.
Little did they know that a serendipitous text message sent years later on Kaydan’s 10th birthday would offer an unexpected, life-changing opportunity. This text message would pave the way for a transformative medical intervention at the Children’s Heart Institute at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital that would alter Kaydan's life trajectory.
Demetric and her husband, Cedric, recall the initial months following Kaydan's birth as the most critical. Shortly after her birth, doctors identified a complex congenital heart defect: Kaydan had a severe form of double outlet right ventricle. They grappled with the overwhelming emotion of seeing their newborn battling for her life.
“Because of all the tubes and monitors Kaydan needed, we couldn’t even hold her for the first six weeks of her life,” Demetric said. “It was an agony that no parent should bear.”
To add to their emotional distress, the complexities of Kaydan's condition made understanding her health challenges even more difficult for her parents. Demetric said she often felt helpless when visiting her daughter in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the hospital in Mississippi every day. “The doctors and nurses did everything they could to explain what was going on, but we were in shock, and it was all so complicated. We were worried that nothing would work.”
Fortunately, the haze of uncertainty and fear would soon pass thanks to affiliated congenital heart surgeon Jorge Salazar, MD, and affilated pediatric cardiologist Avichal Aggarwal, MD. At the time of Kaydan's initial surgeries, both physicians practiced at the Mississippi institution where she was born and led her initial surgeries. Both doctors later became affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, in 2017 and 2020, respectively.
“Heart surgeries, especially complex ones like Kaydan's, often require delicate, staged approaches. Given the state of her heart, we had to stagger the procedure across multiple surgeries in those first few weeks and months after Kaydan was born,” said Dr. Salazar.who is the executive co-director of the Children’s Heart Institute. “It's not easy for any parent to witness their child face such challenges, especially the prospect of multiple open-heart surgeries so early in life.”
Within days of her birth, Kaydan underwent the first of three major heart surgeries she'd face before turning 2 years old performed by Dr. Salazar.
By the time Kaydan underwent her second and third procedures, Demetric felt their trust and bond with the doctors had significantly alleviated their anxieties. Fortunately, the subsequent surgeries were successful. By the age 2, Kaydan was able to enjoy a near-normal childhood.
Before leaving Mississippi for Houston, Dr. Aggarwal gave Demetric his personal cell phone number, ensuring her he’d always be there for her and her family.
Years later, on the evening of June 20, 2022, as Kaydan celebrated her 10th birthday, Demetric felt compelled to reach out to Dr. Aggarwal. “We hadn’t talked in many years, but something told me to send him a text message to celebrate her milestone,” she said. To her surprise, he responded promptly.
Dr. Aggarwal recalls the joy of reconnecting with the family and was deeply moved by Kaydan's progress. “Catching up with the family about Kaydan's journey and realizing how far she has come highlights the lasting difference that medical interventions can make. For children like Kaydan, these opportunities don't merely address a physical condition, but can alter the entire trajectory of their lives,” he shared. “It's truly heartwarming to witness.”
During their texts and a phone call, he discussed the advancements in medical treatments, specifically the innovative biventricular repair procedures being pioneered at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. Coincidentally, this procedure seemed to be a potential fit for Kaydan's condition.
The Biventricular Repair Program at the Children’s Heart Institute provides an innovative treatment approach for children who, in the past, might have been only offered the single-ventricle or Fontan pathway. A biventricular repair is an innovative surgical technique devised to establish or restore a two-ventricle circulation in children born with single ventricle congenital heart defects. This method departs from the traditional reliance on a single ventricle to pump blood to both the lungs and body.
After discussing the potential of a biventricular repair with the Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital care team, Demetric and Cedric thoroughly considered the suggestion. Having built a strong trust with these two doctors over the years, they felt confident that both doctors were prioritizing Kaydan’s well-being. The family was informed that, without the biventricular repair, Kaydan might eventually need a heart, and possibly a liver, transplant in her early 20s. Grasping the significance of the procedure, they saw it as a chance to possibly alter that trajectory. So, they left their home in Mississippi and made their way down to Houston.
Dr. Salazar shared his perspective on the evolution of biventricular repair: “We're taking a once challenging problem and innovating. Medical standards have progressed over the years, leading to groundbreaking opportunities for children to have normally functioning hearts. This procedure is a pinnacle in cardiac care, with only a few global centers equipped to perform it. For children like Kaydan, who underwent multiple early surgeries, we're essentially transforming their heart to function normally, enhancing their long-term survival chance. Unlike traditional transplants lasting 10 to 15 years, biventricular repair aims for a heart's lifelong endurance.”
“Even Kaydan was on board,” said Demetric. “She said she prayed on it and felt that the surgery was safe, so she wanted to proceed too. She even got excited and asked if she could call the hospital herself to schedule the appointment.”
At 10 years of age, Kaydan’s biventricular repair was scheduled for February 2023 at the Children’s Heart Institute at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. The Children’s Heart Institute offers innovative solutions for patients with congenital or acquired heart disease. The affiliated team provides comprehensive care for newborns, children and adolescents, with a smooth transition into adult congenital cardiac care. Even for patients like Kaydan who come from all across the United States, the team collaborates with a patient’s hometown care team before and after surgery and once a patient returns home.
Kaydan’s nearly ten-hour surgery was a success. Within two days post-surgery, she began moving and talking. By the fourth day, she was eating and walking around. Just two weeks after the procedure, she was discharged and headed home to Mississippi with a normally functioning heart.
“Kaydan’s post-operative progress has been outstanding,” said Dr. Aggarwal. “She swiftly returned home, with follow-up evaluations reflecting excellent results. More than the medical achievement, witnessing her reunion with her family, observing the renewed hope in their eyes reaffirms the transformative power of biventricular repair.”
Dr. Salazar commented on the procedure's significance, saying, “Kaydan returned to Mississippi with what we term a 'normal heart.' Given her initial condition, this is monumental. It's essential to grasp the profound meaning of a 'normal heart' here. Many children like Kaydan are born with half or mis-arranged hearts. Our aim is to reconstruct the heart to function normally. This means not just restoring physical function but offering a fully normal future for the child, reshaping their entire life trajectory.”
At the Children’s Heart Institute, patients like Kaydan receive hands-on, specialized 24/7 care from a team of affiliated physicians and specialty trained nurses. With a Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, a dedicated pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, a pediatric heart failure and transplant program, and an adult congenital heart program, patients with congenital heart conditions are cared for in an advanced and highly specialized setting developed just for them.
Kaydan now has no restrictions. She dances, runs around and can eat a well-rounded diet that any child dreams of. Her mom reports that she is gaining a lot of healthy weight, which has always been a challenge to her – 14 pounds in just a few months. Most importantly, according to her mom, Kaydan is happier and feels better. The family just celebrated Kaydan’s 11th birthday at an amusement park. “I got to ride the big rides. I love my heart!” Kaydan said.
“For any other parent in this situation,” Demetric added, “I would say to be open minded and learn to trust your care team. That made all of the difference for us throughout Kaydan’s journey. Listen to your heart and find a team like the one at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. We felt so well taken care of. And you know, it's amazing how a single text can change everything. I still keep in touch with Dr. Aggarwal, and it feels so special knowing that one message a year ago transformed our lives in such a profound way.”
The Children’s Heart Institute is a collaboration between the affiliated physicians at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. Typically, patients are seen on an outpatient basis at a UT Physicians clinic with all inpatient procedures performed at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.