Heart Month: Putting Little Hearts in Good Hands

Thanks to our partners at Essentia Health for sponsoring this article.

Essentia health

It was just another routine pregnancy check-up in October 2020 when Stephanie Thompson’s care team at Essentia Health noticed what initially appeared to be an irregular heartbeat. Additional testing revealed her unborn baby had a rare condition known as Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF). A combination of four separate heart defects, TOF negatively impacts blood flow through the heart and can reduce the amount of oxygen that is delivered to the body. 

Stephanie and her husband, Ryan, were shocked and frightened.

TOF can result in numerous potential complications, some of them life-threatening. As her due date neared, they weighed their options. They wanted to deliver at Essentia Health rather than Children’s Minnesota in Minneapolis “because we had our care team there.” That included pediatric cardiologist Kristina Rauser-Foltz, MD.

When Stephanie’s son, Ryder, was born, it was determined that he would need to undergo open-heart surgery. A day after turning 6 months old, Ryder had open-heart surgery at Children’s to repair the four defects of TOF. Things went well, and while he likely will need additional surgeries down the road, recovery is on track. Ryder is expected to be able to do almost all the things little boys like to do.

Ryder’s first birthday in December 2021 was more than a celebration.

It was a day filled with gratitude for those who helped Ryder reach this exciting milestone. Stephanie’s thankful for the care of Dr. Rauser-Foltz, who has been there for her family every step of the way. She says she never felt like “just another number.” 

Instead, Dr. Rauser-Foltz would reach out to her proactively, before and after Ryder was born. She told Stephanie “never be afraid to call” and the two frequently exchanged messages. “Dr. Rauser-Foltz really walked us through that whole process, and it was so comforting to me, knowing that she was there,” Stephanie said. 

Dr. Rauser-Foltz is also delighted with Ryder’s progress.

“As a physician at Essentia, it’s a privilege to care for children with congenital heart disease, such as Ryder,” she said. “It has been rewarding to watch Ryder respond so well to surgery, and I look forward to continuing to see him grow and develop in the years to come.”

Thanks to pediatric cardiologists like Dr. Rauser-Foltz, Stephanie and Ryan were given reassurance in a time of worry. 

Have questions? Here are some helpful answers from Dr. Rauser-Foltz for parents going through similar experiences:

How do I know if my child needs to see a pediatric cardiologist?

If there are concerns about your child’s cardiac health, their primary care provider may refer them to a pediatric cardiologist. Some of the more common reasons for these types of referrals include the presence of heart murmurs, chest pain or heart-rhythm concerns. 

What is a heart murmur, and are they common in children?

A heart murmur is the presence of an extra sound that is heard when blood is pumped through the heart. Heart murmurs are commonly heard in children and do not always mean that there is need for concern. Many heart murmurs are not harmful and do not require further medical follow-up. If there is concern that the murmur is due to a heart abnormality, an echocardiogram (heart ultrasound) can be conducted to determine the cause of the murmur. 

If you could emphasize one thing for families with children in need of cardiology care, what would it be?

Hearing that your child may have a heart condition can be an extremely frightening scenario. It’s important to know that you and your family are not alone in this. Your pediatric cardiologist will be there to support you fully throughout this stressful and potentially challenging time.  

What inspired you to become a pediatric cardiologist, and why did you choose to practice at Essentia Health?

I chose this career path because as a healer I am fascinated by the heart, specifically the treatment of complex congenital heart disease. What I love the most about pediatric cardiology is the ability to connect with my patients and their families. I chose to conduct my practice at Essentia Health because as a native of North Dakota, I embrace the ability to serve in my home state at a hospital that puts patients and their care first and foremost.

Learn more about pediatric cardiology services at Essentia Health by visiting EssentiaHealth.org.

To read more about Dr. Rauser-Foltz and see how to schedule an appointment, visit her profile HERE

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