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Tiny Patient Marks Milestone at UK

Media Contact: Beth Goins, 859-257-1754, x232 

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 26, 2008) She weighs less than six pounds, with feet about the size of her father's thumb, yet Kendall Ellen Alsip Patterson has already left a large footprint on the hearts of those around her since she was born two weeks ago.

Kendall is the 100th patient to undergo corrective heart surgery at the Kentucky Children's Heart Center, established this year at Kentucky Children's Hospital. The center treats many children who otherwise would have faced a long journey for this specialized, delicate care.

Like many infants treated at the center, Kendall's heart problems developed before she was born. When her mom, Julie, was 20 weeks pregnant, doctors discovered through routine screening that Kendall's heart was not formed properly, and a portion of her aorta, the large vessel supplying blood to the rest of the body, was too small, a condition found in only 5 to 8 percent of all babies born with heart defects.

"We had just found out we were having a girl a few minutes earlier, so it was like letting the air out of a big balloon," her father, LeRoy, said as he recalled learning of his daughter's condition. "We started praying right away, and we kept praying."

The next day, the Pattersons went to see pediatric cardiologist Dr. Carol Cottrill, who was able to do tests on the baby's heart before she was born. It was clear she would need surgery, and Cottrill was able to refer the family to her colleagues at the Kentucky Children's Heart Center.

"I used to have to send these children out of state to large referral centers," Dr. Cottrill said. "Now, we are becoming the referral center, and it means so much to these families to have this care close to home. It's also important to me because it helps assure a good continuum of care."

Kendall was born in the University of Kentucky Birthing Center on Dec. 9 and spent her first week in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Kentucky Children's Hospital before pediatric surgery chief felt she was ready to undergo surgery.

The surgical team were able to reconstruct her aorta and repair her heart.

Following the four-hour surgery, the Pattersons were able to see their tiny daughter. "We knew she was in good hands," LeRoy said.

His wife agreed. "We knew we couldn't meet this need, but the people at UK could," Julie said. "That gave us some comfort, and we are so thankful that she is doing so well."

While she has a long recovery ahead of her, her caregivers at the children's hospital expect her to do very well and to start the new year at home with her parents and three older siblings', a 20-year-old brother just home from Army boot camp, a 17-year-old brother and a 14-year-old sister.

While about 15 percent of babies with her condition don't survive, all of the children treated for this congenital defect at UK have done well so far, a measure lauded by Dr. Tim Bricker, professor and chair of pediatrics, UK College of Medicine, and physician-in-chief of Kentucky Children's Hospital.

"I commend our entire team," Bricker said. "We are fully committed to the quality of this program as we care for some of the most fragile patients in this state and help them to reach their potential."

Caring for each patient is a host of experts, from surgeons, cardiologists, anesthesiologists, nurses and intensivists. The Kentucky Children's Heart Center collaborates with the Gill Heart Institute Adult Congenital Heart Disease Clinic to provide uninterrupted care to patients born with heart disease as they become adults.

The milestone marked by Kendall's treatment highlights the importance of providing quality care close to home, said Dr. Michael Karpf, UK executive vice president for health affairs. "I am extremely pleased to say that we are able to offer this special care to our patients, giving them options that weren't available in the past during some of the most critical moments of life. We used to have to send our most difficult cases elsewhere, and now with this pediatric heart surgery program, we are able to take on other hospitals' most difficult cases, and I am confident that we will continue to grow and build this program," Karpf said.

Kentucky Children's Heart Center is chaired by pediatric cardiology chief Dr. Louis Bezold. Bezold is an associate professor in the UK College of Medicine.

"The University of Kentucky should be very proud to have this program." said LeRoy.

Added Julie, "We were really touched by how well they not only cared for our daughter, but they cared for us as well, making sure our needs were met. We are very grateful to everyone for their help, every inch of every step along the way."

Page last updated: 8/6/2013 3:20:25 PM

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