February is American Heart Month — Cyrus’ story

Just in time for American Heart Month, learn about our courageous patient, Cyrus, who underwent complex open heart surgery. His successful journey was met by much celebration from his family and his team of CHOC experts.

Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) is a rare congenital heart defect, which is 100 percent fatal if left untreated. Sunny and Jereme Brixey knew about their baby’s risks even before Cyrus was born in 2008, having been prenatally diagnosed.

Prior to Cyrus’ birth, the cardiac team at CHOC already had a plan of action: an approach involving three different open heart surgeries. Three days after he was born, Cyrus underwent complex open heart surgery. He had a second heart surgery at 4 months and a third at 4 years.

After the third procedure in 2013, Cyrus took a long time to recover in the hospital. After being in the hospital for nearly two months due to persistent drainage from a chest tube, Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) physician Dr. Michele Domico suggested that Cyrus could be discharged home with a portable chest drain. He would be the first patient in the hospital’s history to be sent home with this device. The cardiologists and surgeons agreed and ordered the new portable chest drain for Cyrus, allowing him to go home.

Cyrus, with Dr. Michele Domico, medical director of CHOC CVICU and Choco, at a CHOC Night at Angels Stadium event.
Cyrus, with Dr. Michele Domico, medical director of CHOC CVICU and Choco, at a CHOC Night at Angels Stadium event.

At home, Cyrus’ parents took care of him and his chest drain so that he could heal, and the drain was able to be removed after a few weeks. This successful procedure was met by a large cheer from Cyrus’ entire CHOC team. For Sunny and Jereme, this expression of joy reflected the care Cyrus received every step of his journey. In addition to the clinical excellence of the medical team, the Brixeys believe the team’s positive, encouraging words, as well as the support extended to the entire family, were a huge factor in his recovery. Since then, the CVICU team has used the portable chest drain in several other patients with great success.

Learn more about the CHOC Heart Institute.


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Patient Returns to School Symptom-Free

Jaden picWhen Jaden Rascon started fourth grade earlier this week, she didn’t have to worry any longer about her heartbeat suddenly racing – thanks to an innovative procedure at CHOC.

“I feel good,” the 9-year-old says. “Before, when my heart would speed up, it was very hard to breathe, and it would give me headaches. But now it’s all gone because I got the procedure.”

Jaden recently underwent an outpatient electrophysiology procedure at CHOC to cure her arrhythmia. The experience was short, non-invasive and – even better – required no radiation.

Her procedure is a landmark achievement that signals a new direction for electrophysiology, a field that has already dramatically changed cardiology.  And now, an electrophysiology procedure with no radiation marks an even safer and less invasive cure for a common ailment.

A three-dimensional image of a heart created by cardio-mapping equipment at CHOC.
A three-dimensional image of a heart created by cardio-mapping equipment at CHOC.

The successful radiation-free electrophysiology procedure is a credit to the skill and expertise of Dr. Anjan Batra, medical director of electrophysiology at the CHOC Heart Institute, as well as the state-of-the-art cardio mapping equipment inside the hospital’s new Bill Holmes Tower.

“This has really changed our field,” Dr. Batra said. “We can do so much more, and do it better and safer. It’s great to be in a field where we not only treat, but also cure. It’s great to help a patient so that they don’t have to see a doctor for the condition again.”

Dr. Batra performed the procedure using a three-dimensional cardio mapping system. The device uses catheters with locator sensors that transmit signals from inside the heart. This allowed Dr. Batra to visualize the beating heart by using these magnetic sources as reference points, rather than relying on fluoroscopy – an imaging technique that uses X-rays to obtain images of internal organs while they’re in motion – to reveal the catheters’ positions.

Just weeks after her procedure, Jaden’s quality of life has already improved.

Last November, Jaden began complaining of a rapid heartbeat, says her mother, Vera.  A normal resting heart rate for children ages 7 to 9 is between 70 and 110 beats per minute, but Jaden experienced a heart rate of 225 beats per minute during one emergency department visit. She was then referred to CHOC, and was subsequently determined to be a good candidate for an electrophysiology procedure.

“I was nervous at first,” Jaden says, “but then I knew that they were studying the heart for a long time so nothing would go wrong.”

Typically, up to three patients are diagnosed with arrhythmias each day at CHOC, Dr. Batra says.  About 25 years ago, the only cure for these conditions was open heart surgery, and many patients simply tolerated the condition or relied on medication.

Now, the hospital has used electrophysiology procedures to cure more than 100 children with arrhythmias each year, and that figure is expected to increase as awareness grows among parents and the medical community, says Dr. Batra, one of about 200 pediatric electrophysiologists worldwide.

Learn more about CHOC’s electrophysiology services.

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CHOC Patient Experiences Miracle Thanks to Four Amazing Docs

The Bill Holmes Tower at CHOC Hospital is now open, and as we celebrate our new hospital and its state-of-the-art programs and services, including the Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC  – Orange County’s first fully dedicated pediatric ED, we’d also like to take an opportunity to celebrate and recognize just a few of the many doctors making miracles happen every day within the walls at CHOC.  Here, we hear from Heather and Curtis Short about the CHOC doctors who saved their son’s life.

Cameron and his Dad, Curtis.
Cameron and his Dad, Curtis.

Cameron was born with cranial stenosis, or improper fusion of growth plates in his skull. When he was 8 months old, we scheduled corrective surgery at CHOC.

After his surgery, he was stable in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), so we went home to sleep.

But a ringing phone jerked us awake at 6 a.m. Cameron had suffered two heart attacks and a stroke. We raced back to the hospital to find the chaplain waiting to console us. Cameron had coded.

We went into the PICU to say goodbye. In a fog, we watched Dr. Adam Schwarz administer chest compressions. He brought Cameron back to life.

We experienced a miracle in the form of Dr. Adam Schwarz, Dr. Anjan Batra and a superb cardiac emergency team.

Twenty-one days later we left the hospital – the three of us, together. Now we have the friendliest, most enthusiastic 5-year-old in Orange County, if not the world.

But CHOC docs still play a very important role in our lives. Every six months, Cameron visits Dr. Michael Rebolledo for an echocardiogram. Since Cameron’s initial hospital stay, CHOC docs have seen him through a heart catheterization and an aortic valve repair.

In fact, just after Cameron’s fifth birthday, we learned that he would need open-heart surgery for a faulty mitral valve. We were terrified. After all, we came too close to losing Cameron the first time.

Again, we were saved by a CHOC doctor – this time, Dr. Richard Gates. He assured us that cardiac surgery would be less risky than Cameron’s original cranial surgery. As he calmed our fears, Dr. Gates handed Cameron his stethoscope, making everyone in the exam room happier.

We left Dr. Gates saying to ourselves, “We can do this. Cameron needs the surgery. We need to go into it with confidence.”

Today we have confidence. And we have Cameron — both thanks to CHOC doctors.

More stories about CHOC patients:

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  • A Bright Future: Ian and Micah’s Story
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