PERU The American Heart Association receives a great outpouring of support each year because most people have been touched by heart disease. Oftentimes a parent, a grandparent or friend has suffered a heart attack or stroke and we want to do something to assist in heart disease cures or prevention. On June 26, 2005 the Ryan and Rohatgi families were exposed to an unexpected heart disorder when Ava Marguerite Rohatgi was born with a congenital heart defect. Congenital heart defects are structural problems with the heart present at birth. Ava was born with transposition of the great arteries and double outlet right ventricle. Her aorta and pulmonary artery (the major blood vessels leaving the heart) were reversed resulting in blood being sent back out to her body without being oxygen enriched. Today, twenty-six months later, Ava is healthy and enjoying life to the fullest thanks to the wonderful strides in the treatment of congenital heart defects being made by many people and organizations like the American Heart Association.
In many respects Ava was very fortunate to have been born in Washington DC. Her mom Kerry Ryan grew up in Peru, graduated from Peru Central School and Siena College and ultimately settled in Washington following her marriage to Maryland native Atul Rohatgi. The Childrens National Medical Center is located in Washington DC and is in the Top 10 in the nation in the number of surgeries performed involving children with congenital heart defects. Dr. Richard Jonas performed the surgery on Ava shortly after her birth. He is the Chief of Surgery at Childrens National Medical Center and is involved with more than 500 congenital heart surgeries each year.
Interviewed last week by telephone, Dr. Jonas pointed out that Avas surgery was made possible by research and medical advances that were supported and stimulated by the American Heart Association and other organizations. He explained, Prior to the late 1970s the risk of death or serious problems for someone like Ava was somewhere between 50 and 100 percent. Now theres a 95 to 98 percent probability of a good outcome. Asked what medical advances improved the outcomes, Dr. Jonas said the introduction of a medication called prostaglandin E1 was a major advance. It keeps babies in a reasonably stable state during surgery. The development of non-invasive ultrasound diagnostic imaging was also very important. Prior to ultrasound, catherization was used and babies did not tolerate it well. The third factor was the development of a heart-lung machine specifically designed for babies and infants. Jonas said, The heart-lung machine was developed in the 1950s, but it was designed for adults and not for children.