Dominique’s story

With a dream of becoming a pediatrician one day, Dominique Keane-Cawrse’s professional inspiration is close to her heart.

The CHOC Children’s patient has a heart condition called tetralogy of fallot, a birth defect that includes four anomalies in the heart and requires lifelong treatment.

“I’ve wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember,” says Dominique, 15. “I’m sure it’s because of my condition.”

Dominique recently underwent a valve replacement at CHOC to widen a narrow pulmonary valve, a hallmark of tetralogy of fallot.

A narrow pulmonary valve is the first of the anomalies present in a patient with this condition. The valve cannot fully open, which causes the heart to work harder to pump blood. This is called pulmonary stenosis.

Second, an enlarged aortic valve is located between the left and right ventricle, rather than being attached to the left ventricle in a normal heart.

Thirdly, the patient’s right ventricle muscle is thicker than normal, a product of the heart working harder to pump blood through the narrowed pulmonary valve.

And finally, patients with tetralogy of fallot have a hole in the septum separating the two sides of the heart. This defect is called a ventricular septal defect.

All together, these four anomalies cause inadequate amounts of blood reach the lungs for oxygen and then oxygen-deficient blood circulates throughout the body.

Already, Dominique had her first heart surgery when she was just four months old, says her mother, Donna.

Because tetralogy of fallot is a lifelong condition, patients typically have procedures periodically throughout their lifetime, hence the recent second surgery at CHOC.

“She’s grown four inches in the last year,” Donna says. “Her heart couldn’t keep up and it was time for a new valve.”

As she ages, Dominique can expect future procedures, but that’s not stopping her from pursuing her dreams.

An incoming sophomore, Dominque is enrolled in a rigorous medical magnet program at JSerra High School in San Juan Capistrano that gears students for careers in medicine.

“It’s a competitive program for top students,” says Donna, adding that her daughter has a 4.4 grade point average.

But while maintaining her grades, Dominique still finds time to participate in sports. She enjoys ice skating and is an avid golfer who made her school’s varsity team as a freshman.

Dominique is also already giving back to CHOC: Recently, she lent her artistic talents to a fundraiser at Downtown Disney that benefited the hospital.

Learn more about CHOC Children’s Heart Institute

Read more stories about CHOC patients:

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  • A Bright Future: Ian and Micah’s Story
    Even though I’ve been hanging around CHOC Children’s for a long time now, I am continually surprised by the courage, tenacity and strength of the patients I meet. It’s especially ...

Heart Problems – What Parents Should Know

Did you know that at least nine of every 1,000 infants born a year have a heart defect, according to the American Heart Association? While some heart diseases are congenital (existing at birth) others are acquired (which can develop during childhood).

In recognition of American Heart Month, CHOC Children’s encourages parents and caregivers to learn about the symptoms associated with some of these heart conditions. Certain symptoms can suggest that your child or teen has a heart problem that needs a doctor’s attention. This is especially true if symptoms occur during sports or other activities.

Talk with your doctor if your child experiences any of the mentioned symptoms. Keep in mind that these signs do not necessarily mean that your child has a heart problem. For example, a child who faints during sports may have low blood sugar or other temporary problems. A doctor can help find the cause.

Click here to learn more about the heart conditions, symptoms and treatment options, treated by experts at the CHOC Children’s Heart Institute.