Repairing tiny hearts: Why I love my job

Brandon was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

Brandon was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

As a pediatric heart surgeon, every day I ask myself the same two questions. I walk into the operating room thinking, “If this was my child, what would I want the surgeon to do?” And after spending hours repairing a tiny heart, roughly the size of a walnut, I ask myself, “If this was my child, what would I want the surgeon to tell me?”

It means so much when I can talk with families, tell them to relax and take a deep breath, because their child now has the best possible chances to grow up with a healthy heart.

One of my favorite stories is about Brandon, a 3-day-old baby who was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a very serious heart condition where one side of the heart is …Click here to continue reading

How Project Adam saved my life

Morgan Frain

Morgan Frain

My name is Morgan Frain, and I am 4 years old. On Jan. 7, 2012, my mom and dad took me to Lambeau Field in Green Bay for dinner and to play in the atrium. As we were getting ready to leave, my heart suddenly stopped and I fell to the ground. My dad turned me over and saw that my face was blue. He told my mom that they needed to do CPR, and told my 7-year-old sister, Hannah, to run and get help.

My mom started CPR right away, while a nice man from the Green Bay Packers security department brought my dad an …Click here to continue reading

Can heart surgery affect a child’s development?

Child with congenital heart diseaseWhen children have congenital heart disease (CHD) their road to recovery involves more than recovering from heart surgery. Research shows these children have a higher risk for developmental and learning problems compared to children without CHD. One reason for this is children with some forms of CHD spend an extended amount of time in the hospital recovering during a critical time for brain …Click here to continue reading

Is regular exercise safe for adults with congenital heart disease?

For many years, researchers have studied the effects of physical exercise on healthy people and those with cardiovascular disease. These studies have shown both groups benefit from being physically active by having a lower risk of heart attacks and living longer. The same benefits apply to adults with congenital heart disease (CHD).

Despite this evidence, a large number of adults with CHD are not physically active. Unfortunately for many of these adults, being inactive is a behavior learned from growing …Click here to continue reading

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin’s Project ADAM celebrates 62 lives saved

Project ADAM logoOctober is National Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month. Project ADAM (Automated Defibrillators in Adam’s Memory) announced this month that 62 lives have been saved since the program was founded in 1999.

Project ADAM is a Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin program that helps schools throughout the nation prepare for and respond to cardiac emergencies. The program was …Click here to continue reading

Understanding pregnancy risks for women with congenital heart disease

A large number of women born with congenital heart disease (CHD) survive into adulthood because of advancements in surgical and medical treatments. Like many young adults, they have dreams of starting a family of their own. In general, pregnancy in women with a history of CHD is safe, but for some pregnancy may have significant risks to the mom and unborn baby.

One of the biggest concerns is the increased stress on the heart. Throughout pregnancy, …Click here to continue reading

Childhood cholesterol tests may lead to healthier adults

At a family gathering, my cousin approached me about her daughter’s recent visit to the pediatrician. She was a bit surprised her pediatrician was recommending her healthy, active 10-year-old have her cholesterol checked. This sparked a very interesting debate among my family members about health guidance recommendations, most arguments beginning with phrases like, “back in the day…” or “my kids never had to ….”

Fortunately, though, with time comes knowledge. We have come to recognize that some of the most common adult health problems — diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol — have their roots in childhood habits. And there also are those unfortunate …Click here to continue reading

Why we support Briggs & Al’s Run & Walk for future patients and families


Lucas was born with Tetralogy of Fallot.

Raising money for Briggs & Al’s Run & Walk for Children’s Hospital is important to my family because it allows us to help other families benefit from the best medical care.

My name is Amy Randall. In April 2011, our son, Lucas, was born with Tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital heart defect. This diagnosis rocked our world. We soon learned congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect.

Days after Lucas’s birth, we met cardiologist Margaret Samyn, MD, in the Herma Heart Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. My husband and I were worried and in shock. Dr. Samyn …Click here to continue reading

For adults with congenital heart disease, Herma Heart Center is the best place for specialized care

Thanks to major advances in treating congenital heart disease, more than 90 percent of all children born with heart defects will survive to adulthood. This is a major success story in the medical world and has resulted in a new group of adults with congenital heart disease.

There are more than 1 million adults with congenital heart disease living in the U.S., of which about 15,000 live in Wisconsin. While many are doing well, these adults — regardless of their current condition — are at risk for unique health problems. For this …Click here to continue reading

Project ADAM honors school nurse for CPR and AED excellence

Karen Smith Award

Janette Strasburger, MD, cardiologist at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in the Fox Valley and Project ADAM advisor (left), presents Kathy Verstegen (right) with the Karen Smith Award.

Every year Project ADAM presents the Karen Smith Award to a person who demonstrates a high level of passion, innovation and excellence in serving as a role model for their school’s CPR and automated external defibrillator (AED) program. The award is named after Karen Smith, a nursing services coordinator for the Pewaukee School District who was a pioneer and leader in school health and safety. This year, Project ADAM is honoring Kathy Verstegen, a school nurse with the Kimberly Area School District, as the 2012 recipient of the Karen Smith Award.

Kathy was selected for this honor because of her instrumental role in establishing an AED program in her district. Since 2001, when the AED program was launched in the Kimberly Area School District, 13 AEDs have been purchased. Kathy is responsible for AED …Click here to continue reading