March 16, 2016 changed our lives when a routine visit to our pediatrician for a cold led to the discovery of two major congential heart defects in our daughter, Kathleen. A subsequent echo and catscan at Childrens of Alabama uncovered a large ASD (atrial septal defect) and a PAPVR (partial abnormalous pulmonary venous return), a rare and complex defect. She was two years old and needed open-heart surgery to save her life.
The coming weeks were some of the worst and best in our family's lives in different ways. The diagonsis was a shock and the severity of her condition was overwhelming, to say the least. We had a lot of questions and a lot of fears. But as we learned more, it became clear that we were in the best place we could possibly be - in the hands of incredibly skilled doctors, nurses and staff at Children's of Alabama.
The surgery was scheduled for April 18th with Dr. Robert Dabal, Chief of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery, and from the moment we arrived, we were treated like family by the nurses and our child life specialist, the lovely Jane Love. Physically letting go of Kathleen the morning of surgery to send her back with the doctors was almost impossible, but sensing our panic, her operating team came to our pre-op room, put their arms around us, prayed with us and eased the parting with such compassion. I will never forget it. It would be a five-hour surgery with one hour of that requiring that her to be on the heart bypass machine, but knowing that Kathleen was in the presence of such prayerful and skilled hands provided a sense of peace beyond explanation.
As for Kathleen herself, her surgery was a brilliant success, her recovery was quick and her care throughout was nothing short of flawless.
My hope in sharing our story is to underscore the impact this phenomenal place has had on my family, and countless other families in Alabama and around the nation. It is so much more than a hospital – Children’s of Alabama is a place full of compassion, hope, and generosity of spirit that make all the difference for patients and their families.
We also want to use this platform to personally thank Dr. William McMahon, Kathleen's cardiologist with UAB's division of pediatric cardiology, who did a superb job with her diagonsis, explaining it to us and calming us, and who continues to care for her now on a regular basis. And we also owe Kathleen's life to her pediatricians Dr. Robert Levin whose extraordinary skill and judgment discovered the problem and Dr. Amy Albert, our friend for life and devoted doctor to Kathleen's every sniffle, and every one of her ICU attendings and especially her nurses: Heather, Jane, Hillary, Tiffany, Carly, Allysa, Megan, Stephanie and Jenny.
Frank and I learned this year that none of us are immune to life’s challenges and illnesses but we have the opportunity to help where we can through our support of Children’s each year. We are incredibly lucky to have the resources and facilities right here in Birmingham and my hope is that our community never takes it for granted.
Please join us in contributing to and supporting this life-saving work the Bruno Heart Center is doing everyday for our little ones.
With love and gratitude,
Frank, Mary Bradley, Frank, Jr. and Kathleen