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The earliest diagnosis

Photos by Dan Bishop

February 2013

Dr. Margaret Carr diagnosed a heart condition in Damien Chavez through an ultrasound before he was born.

Damien Chavez has a special heart. The active 5-year old can light up a room with his smile and is already charming the girls in his kindergarten class. But whatís really incredible is how his tiny heart cleared a giant hurdle.

Damien was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition called overriding aorta before he was born, due in large part to the remarkable clarity of prenatal ultrasound. With 3-D images, doctors can see the walls and valves of the fetal heart moving in real time.

Dr. Margaret Carr is a maternal fetal specialist with Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare. "One look and I knew something was wrong. I could see Damienís aorta arising from the middle of his heart instead of coming off of the left side."

It was scary news, but the same technology also gave Damienís mom, Jessica Chavez, something to hang onto. "As I went for regular ultrasounds, I could see Damien still had a strong heartbeat and everything else was normal. The pictures helped me hold it together," she says.

Carr says about 1 percent of babies in America are born with heart defects; if diagnosed early they can do very well. "I try to find ways to give hope to my patients and in this case the 3-D ultrasound enabled me to do that."

The pictures were stored and reviewed by a pediatric cardiologist who came up with a treatment plan. Damien had surgery shortly after he was born. Today, he shows people his scar and tells them how doctors were able to fix him.

"I have asked myself, what if I went to a different hospital and my doctors didnít have that special ultrasound?" There is a catch in Chavezís voice. "I try not to think about it. The 3-D pictures and Dr. Carr saved Damienís life."


This story ran in the February 2013 issue of: