I’m an active 27-year-old ― I hike, run half marathons, row, kayak, play tennis, squash and ski. I also work long shifts on my feet at my family’s barbeque restaurants. Last winter, I went for a run with my sister near my home in Washington, D.C.
I don’t remember what happened. My sister says I collapsed. I woke up two days later in a hospital. After four days, cardiologists discovered “anomalous left coronary artery from the pulmonary artery (ALCAPA).” This meant my left coronary artery arose abnormally from my pulmonary artery, instead of the aorta, the largest artery, as it does in healthy people.
My parents and I researched doctors in the United States with the most expertise in correcting this rare congenital heart defect. Yves d’Udekem, M.D., chief of Cardiac Surgery at Children’s National Hospital and Charles Berul, M.D., chief of Cardiology quickly rose to the top of that list. They were also close to home.
They said my case was one in a million because my heart defect had gone undetected when I was a baby. Most infants with ALCAPA don't live past a year without treatment. Drs. d'Udekem and Berul understood the urgency and scheduled the surgery within days. They both were kind, thorough and serious. I trusted them with my life.
Every single person at Children’s National was compassionate. The phlebotomists who collected my blood helped me through my fear of needles. The surgical team let me delay anesthesia so I could see the operating room where my 6- to 8-hour surgery would take place. Being at Children’s National meant a lot of comfort. The recovery nurses were incredibly kind and highly trained. Thanks to my doctors and their team, this scary episode had the best possible outcome.