Open-heart surgery at Dell Children's gave this Austin family hope | Ascension
Megan Coffee, he husband and son Will walking and holding hands at Dell Children's hospital

Open-heart surgery at Dell Children's gave this Austin family hope

Family found care for their son who needed open-heart surgery after a consultation with Dr. Charles Fraser at Dell Children’s in Austin, TX.

Megan Coffey, who lives in Austin, Texas, looked proud and in awe of her seven-year-old son, Will playing with toys on the floor. Seeing him healthy and happy is a relief for this mother of three, who spent two years of Will's life seeking care for his congenital heart condition.

When Will was nine months old, his pediatrician suspected he had a heart murmur and recommended seeing a pediatric cardiologist. This diagnosis surprised Megan and her husband because his prior check-ups were fine. Once the family discovered that Will had regurgitation between his valves, they looked for a second opinion and found one at Dell Children’s Medical Center, part of Ascension Seton, where they learned that Will had a hole in his heart. "That was the first time the doctor came out and actually knew the root cause of the regurgitation," Megan said. "At that point, it was definitive that he would need open-heart surgery."

By then, Will was 16 months old. His doctor asked Megan to monitor Will's energy levels to determine when it would be time to have open-heart surgery to fix his mitral valve. Will's heart would need to show stress and start to enlarge before doctors could perform surgery. 

Although Megan got a second opinion from a Dell Children’s pediatric cardiologist about Will’s heart condition, she was still undecided about where Will should have surgery. Megan immediately prepared to look for the best hospital and surgeon to care for her son and perform the surgery. She looked to her online support groups for recommendations and even drove out of Austin to explore options. After encouragement from Will's pediatrician and cardiologist, the family decided Dell Children's was the best place for his care. She was advised to meet Charles D. Fraser, Jr., MD, executive director of the Institute for Cardiovascular Health and Chief of Pediatric and Congenital Heart Surgery at the Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease. In their first consultation, Megan said she asked him 30 questions and loved his communication style and patience. Meeting him removed a lot of her worry and fear about her son's condition.

When Will turned three years old, signs of his heart enlarging and the regurgitation went from mild to severe. The family decided it was time for Will to have surgery. Megan had just given birth to her second child, which made the situation stressful for the Coffey family, but she felt supported.

"The care team did everything they could to make us feel cared for. Somebody was with us, speaking to us the whole way," she said.

Megan, a marketing professional, made "We heart Will" pins to give to everyone who cared for Will and their family throughout their hospital stay. "Everyone started wearing them, which was really sweet," she said.

After eight days in the hospital, Will could go home. The family felt confident to continue monitoring his care at home because of the information his care team provided. From there, Will's follow-up appointments went from four weeks to six weeks, then to six months to annual visits with his cardiologist at Dell Children’s Medical Center. 

"What I would tell another family or parent who was faced with a similar situation as we were and was determining where to go and where to put their trust is to definitely go to Dell [Children’s]. Meet with the team. Get your evaluation," she said. "I guarantee you'll put the faith and trust in them as we did for our son."

Today, Will is an energetic first grader who loves dinosaurs, cars and the color red. When Will was nine-months old, Megan was told he would grow to live a restricted life, but today she feels like his possibilities are endless.

Heart care for children at any age

When your child is facing a new diagnosis, or you are deciding on a surgical care plan for your child, there's a lot to think about. Pediatric cardiovascular specialists at Dell Children’s can provide a second opinion based on our experience and as part of a national team of providers. Get the confidence and peace of mind that your child's doctor and care plan are right for your family. Talk with one of our doctors for a second opinion by calling 855-324-0091 for an appointment.