6 - Tuesday, March 8, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.cam
6 - Tuesday, March 8, 2011 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom
From Page 1
To improve her condition -
which consists of four congenital
heart defects - Snider under-
went two open-heart surgeries,
one during infancy and the other
at age four. Snider expected to
need an additional surgery at age
12, but her heart managed to con-
tinue functioning without seri-
ous medical intervention from
her adolescence into her late 20s.
"It was a miracle that I didn't
die in the last 15 years," she said
in a phone interview.
But as Snider and her husband
began plans to conceive their
first child last year, her doctors
advised her to have another sur-
gery to provide additional sup-
port for her heart before it would
undergo strain from pregnancy.
Snider's procedure - cur-
rently available at a limited
number of hospitals throughout
the country - uses the Melody
Transcatheter Pulmonary Valve,
which was approved by the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration
in January 2010. The valve is
inserted via a catheter into the
leg, maneuvered through the
torso and placed between the
right ventricle of the heart and
Though the procedure is still
in its pilot stages, it has already
exhibited high success rates in
Since a catheter is used to
guide the valve into the heart,
the procedure is considered less
invasive than open-heart sur-
gery. This knowledge, in addi-
tion to support from her family
and friends, allowed Snider to
put her full faith in the new pro-
cedure, which she had last April.
"We just prayed and knew it
was going to be good," Snider
said. "We weren't really worried."
Before the introduction of
the Melody Valve, patients often
underwent high-risk open-heart
surgeries to replace faulty valves
that had grown weak over time,
according to Aimee Armstrong,
a pediatric interventional cardi-
ologist at Mott and Snider's pri-
Open-heart surgeries often
cause scar tissue to form over the
heart, said Armstrong, who is
also an assistant professor in the
Department of Pediatrics and
Communicable Diseases at the
University's Medical School.
"This complicates future sur-
geries," she said.
However, the introduction of
the Melody Valve eliminated this
complication risk for Snider. She
said she was discharged from the
hospital the day after the proce-
dure and back at work the next
Snider said that in the months
following the procedure, she felt
well and recuperated quickly.
She added that she leads a nor-
mal life and can participate in
one of her favorite hobbies, danc-
ing, with a church group.
"We perform three to four
times a month, and I've never
had problems," she said.
Snider added that with full
support from her doctors, she
and her husband were quickly
back on track to try to have chil-
"The doctors told us, 'Your
(artery) blockage is trivial. You
can start (having children) at
anytime.' That was just awesome
for us," she said.
A BIG ENDEAVOR TO
SAVE A LITTLE HEART
Two-year-old Mira Larrison
underwent heart surgery even
before she was born.
Due to a congenital heart con-
dition known as hypoplastic left
heart syndrome, the left side of
Mira's heart wasn't developing
properly when she was in her
mother's womb. Of more imme-
diate concern to doctors was the
lack of a hole between the two
sides of her heart, a defect that
was causing blood and pressure
buildup in the lungs.
"We felt that she was an
extremely high-risk patient,"
Armstrong, one of Mira's sur-
So when Mira's mother, Katie
Larrison of Algonac, Mich.,
reached the 30th week in her
pregnancy, doctors at Mott's
Congenital Heart Center decid-
ed in-utero intervention was
necessary to improve the baby's
condition. Katie underwent an
innovative surgery in December
2008 in which a team of Uni-
versity nurses and physicians,
including Armstrong, created a
hole between the left and right
atria of Mira's fetal heart.
Despite the risks - elevated
by Mira's Turner syndrome,
a rare chromosomal disorder
affecting approximately one in
2,500 females - the surgery
was successful, with Mira boast-
ing strong vital signs upon her
delivery the following January.
Acting quickly after the birth,
Armstrong began implementing
a plan that would involve addi-
tional procedures to carefully
"re-route" the infant's heart to
allow her right ventricle to do
the work of the faulty left ven-
tricle for the entire body.
With special attention paid to
Mira's Turner syndrome, Arm-
strong and Jennifer Hirsch, also
a pediatric cardiac surgeon at
Mott, performed multiple mini-
mally invasive procedures on
Mira in an effort to improve the
blood flow in her heart. Hypo-
plastic left heart syndrome can
never be fully corrected, Arm-
strong said, though surgeries like
this can improve heart function.
"We did newer, more innova-
tive hybrid procedures to 're-
route' the blood going through
her heart using stents and
bands," Armstrong explained.
Armstrong said she never
expected to make medical his-
tory by becoming one of the
first interventionalists in the
nation to perform this series of
unconventional surgeries on a
developing infant, both pre- and
post-delivery, and yield positive
But even after her successful
procedures, Mira's health still
wasn't 100 percent.
"(Mira) was on a heart trans-
plant list for six months because
the pressure in her heart and
lungs was elevated, likely due to
the severe former heart disease,"
Six months later, though, Mira
showed significant improvement
as pressure normalized, bring-
ing the Larrisons some much-
needed relief as their daughter
was removed from the trans-
With Mira back on track for
her series of surgeries, Katie
said she and her husband Jeremy
were nervous as Mira underwent
her next procedure at Mott, but
said they were comforted by the
preparedness of Mira's medical
"(The doctors) would play out
different scenarios," Katie said.
"There was always a plan. We
always knew who was involved
in her care."
Armstrong said Mira may
need another surgery around
her third birthday. But for now,
Mira's life is steadily approach-
"She's much happier," Katie
With an obvious tone of pride
in her voice, Katie added that
her daughter began to "scoot on
her butt" when she was about 20
"She's doing much better since
her surgery," Katie said, "(My
husband and I) have been able to
breathe more deeply."
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