Posts Tagged ‘Pediatric Cardiology’

Hospital confusion

February 23, 2010

What in the world is going on here?

The local weather report says that there may be snow in the Atlanta area tomorrow! I’ve been down here in broiling heat, in rain, in cold weather, but never snow… traffic tomorrow could be really interesting.

We’ll probably get an early start, earlier than usual. One of the (many) things I like about the Adult Congenital Heart Defect Clinic at Emory, if you arrive earlier than your appointment time they will probably take you a bit early. Schedules do get backed up, but I’ve walked in the door at 8:00 AM for an 8:45 appointment. and been taken back at 8:30.

Also, I need to have my pacemaker checked. The Pacemaker lab is in the rear of the clinic, and the pacer techs usually give you a test during that “down time” after the nurse takes your vital signs but before the doctor makes his/her appearance. If you live a distance away, the Emory staff have no problems making all of your appointments on the same day to save you a second trip. That is much appreciated!

It is good to see a hospital where the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. Years ago (the early 1970’s) I had follow-up appointments at a large hospital that was quite a distance from my home. Early in the morning on appointment day we would all pile into the car and drive several hours, but we would be turned away!

“Funky Heart, to see Dr. John Doe,” my parents would say.

After a few minutes of looking through the files, the receptionist would respond with “You don’t have an appointment today.”

“Yes we do! Today is the 30th, isn’t it?”

“Today is the 30th, but you aren’t on the schedule. You’ll have to come back when you have an appointment.”

The card in daddy’s hand said we were due at 10:00 AM on the 30th, but we weren’t on the schedule… needless to say, it didn’t take very long to get tired of that! But the kicker would come two weeks later, when the telephone rang.

“This is Nurse Jones at Doctor Doe’s office, we were expecting you today and were concerned when you didn’t make it.”


Fast forward to today, that hospital has put all the pieces together and is a very good hospital, with a GOOD Pediatric Cardiology department. I have a lot of friends who have had successful treatments there. I just have to assume all the mix-up and mistakes from way back when were more than likely caused by the times. The early 1970’s saw a lot of advances in Pediatric Cardiology and a lot more hospitals were willing to tackle the problem. There were bound to be growing pains.

I can’t really say anything good about the hospital, because back then everything seemed to be so confused. But on the other hand, I can’t say anything bad about the hospital, because that occurred almost 40 years ago and they have since done some wonderful work with some really sick kids. So if I am ever asked, I usually respond with “I understand that there is a good heart program at that hospital.”

It seems to be the best answer.

What good is a deaf cardiologist?

November 30, 2008

Not much.

I’ve written about Vivien Thomas and Alfred Blaock; so it is time to write a few lines about the third person involved in the Blalock-Taussig Shunt: Pediatric Cardiologist Helen Brooke Taussig.

For those of you who may not know, Taussig’s my personal hero. When I was a patient at Johns Hopkins in 1967, Taussig herself examined me. From what my parents tell me, she was officially retired, but still lived in the Baltimore area and “stopped by the office” occasionally. I was five months old at the time, so I don’t remember it.

Her father was Frank Taussig, a prominent economist who taught at Harvard. Imagine his frustration when his daughter tried her best in school but still seemed to just not get it. I think every parent has shared that frustration at one time or another. It wasn’t her fault – it turns out that Helen Taussig had Dyslexia. Finally after a lot of patient work with her father everything just “clicked” and she was able to graduate. She went to the University of California at Berkley and then applied to Harvard Medical School.

The problem was, Harvard didn’t accept women into its medical program, so Helen tried Johns Hopkins Medical School instead. After she graduated, she took the job as head of the Cardiac Clinic at Hopkins’ children’s hospital, the Harriet Lane Home for Invalid Children.

Ironically, after becoming a doctor, Helen Taussig began to lose her hearing. And what good is a doctor – especially a cardiologist – who loses their hearing?

Thankfully, it wasn’t a sudden event. Helen Taussig lost her hearing slowly, and was able to compensate. Obviously a hearing aid would help, and she took full advantage of them. The movie Something the Lord Made is inaccurate in one respect: Mary Stuart Masterson (the actress who played the role of Helen Taussig) chose to use a more advanced hearing aid than was available at the time. The earpiece available in the early 1940’s was the size of an earmuff, and Masterson thought that such a large, bulky prop would distract from the character. (Look at this 1940’s era photo of Dr. Taussig examining a child in a wheelchair. The black box balanced on the edge of the chair is not Taussig’s medical bag, it is the amplifier for her hearing aid.)

As her hearing faded, she lost the ability to hear some of the chest sounds that a Cardiologist needs to hear to make a diagnosis. So she taught herself how to feel heartbeats by placing her fingertips lightly on the patient’s chest, and for years her hands were her “second stethoscope.” (Click here for a close-up photo of Taussig’s fingertip examination.)

Known mainly for her work in Pediatric Cardiology, few remember that Helen Taussig also played a critical role in averting the Thalidomide crisis in the United States. While Frances Kelsey receives credit (deservedly so) for not authorizing the drug for sale here, Taussig got involved when one of her German students commented that there had been a marked increase in the occurrence of Phocomelia in her home country. Taussig began to study the problem, and before long had determined that the morning sickness drug Thalidomide was causing birth defects. Because of Kelsey’s and Taussig’s actions, only 17 American children were affected by the drug.

So, what good is a deaf cardiologist? It all depends on who that deaf cardiologist is!

Look at you Now!

November 11, 2008

Tonight’s post got scrapped.

Oh, it’s still in the computer, ready to go; you’ll probably see it tomorrow. But someone sent me a wonderful video filmed at the Cardiac Unit of the Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Children’s at Vanderbilt, if you remember, is where Colby recently had his surgery. And when I saw this video, it immediately moved to the head of the line!

So put on your headphones and turn up your speakers, here is Mark O’Shea singing Look at You Now.

Comments, of course, are always welcome!

Fix the Problem!

November 4, 2008

UPDATE, 6:12 AM Eastern Time: Katie is on my mind again… Preliminary reports suggest that the surgery may not have helped her that much, if at all. Get over to her website ASAP and encourage her parents.


Great news from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHA)… The NIH’s Partners in Research program will fund the ACHA’s first Adult Congenital Heart Defect research study! Titled the “Health Education and Access Research Trial in Adult Congenital Heart Disease”, (HEART-ACHD for short) the study will attempt to learn why those of us with Congenital Heart Defects often “fall through the cracks” after childhood and no longer receive good cardiac care.

This is a two year study, and ten of the largest Adult Congenital Cardiac Care centers are involved. Heart Moms and Heart Dads may not be very interested in this results of this study, but it is more important than you think. Imagine that moving from Pediatric Cardiology to Adult Congenital Cardiac Care is like crossing a river…. but the bridge has a huge hole in the middle of it. Some of us, by luck or design, are able to walk around the edge of the hole without falling in and continue with good heart care. Others stumble, and fall in the river. If we’re lucky, we catch something as we fall and are able to pull ourselves back onto the bridge, while others aren’t so fortunate.

Lifelong cardiac care is so important, especially to someone with a Congenital Heart Defect. As you age, not only do you have the problems you were born with, but also the effects of age began to set in. We’re susceptible to Cholesterol problems and clogged arteries, just as everyone else is – but with our bad hearts, the problem may manifest itself in a different form. So the transition from our “kiddie doctor” to an Adult Physician is critical, and right now there are too many ways to get lost in the shuffle… fall through the hole in the bridge, so to speak. Hopefully this study will give a “repair crew” something to work with as they repair the bridge and make the road to lifelong medical care safe to travel!