All Children's Hospital Telethon

Cody + McKenzie

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What are the odds?

When it comes to Cody and McKenzie, even Las Vegas odds makers would have a rough time coming up with numbers.

  • According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)*, one in 100 babies will be born with a structural heart defect, ranging in degrees from easily repaired to devastating.
  • One in approximately 4115 babies will be born with the left half of their heart not fully developed, a defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS).
  • One in approximately 12,200 babies will be born with a single blood vessel instead of the normal two vessels coming out of the heart’s two pumping chambers, a defect called truncus arteriosus.

Cody was born March 27, 2008 with HLHS. McKenzie was born March 28, 2008 with truncus arteriosis.

They wound up in adjacent rooms in All Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

But it wasn’t until ten days later, as McKenzie went through her first surgery and Cody was taken to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab for diagnosis of a post-surgery issue that their families first met in an All Children’s waiting room.

More than 120 miles away from their shared church and neighboring hometowns, these two families found themselves facing similar unexpected journeys together.

“You enter a different world when you have a kid like this,” says Cody’s mom Courtney. Now four years old, her son has been through a series of three surgeries to reconfigure his heart, months of ICU stays at All Children’s, and the on-going struggle to maintain enough weight that is common to many kids with congenital heart defects. Cody has always been a non-stop boy. “Believe it or not, he has more energy now than before— if that’s possible,” Courtney says with a laugh.

Before McKenzie was born, dad Dennis says her family “never even knew All Children’s existed.” Two open-heart surgeries and two cardiac catheterization procedures later, “we’re not even going to have to see a doctor for the next six months,” Dennis says with a smile.

Not that doctors’ visits are a problem. Both Cody and McKenzie now see their favorite cardiologist much closer to home at All Children’s Outpatient Care, Ft. Myers. Gary Stapleton, M.D., Director of All Children’s Invasive Cardiology Program, is one of the cardiologists making monthly visits to the Ft. Myers center.

“It’s actually very rewarding,” says Stapleton. “A lot of these kids are kids that we took care of in the hospital when they were quite sick. To be able to go out and see them in their community—close to home, to see them as outpatients, to see them growing and thriving is a really great thing for all of us that take care of them when they are hospitalized.”

Stapleton knows both kids very well. He’s been Cody’s cardiologist from the start, and helped McKenzie defer her second open-heart surgery for more than two years with an interventional procedure in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab that Stapleton refers to as “my office.”

“Whether it be from diagnostic information that we gather in the cath lab to help us treat them better or whether we’re able to do an interventional procedure that makes them better, being able to follow these kids as they grow and get stronger makes what we do worthwhile.”

McKenzie’s mom Shannon doesn’t know where they’d be if it weren’t for All Children’s, so they want to give back. “We’re attempting to get a Mended Little Hearts support group off the ground here in Ft. Myers. We obviously know that we can’t be the only family that has a child with a congenital heart defect in this area. And we feel it’s very important that, when we were first diagnosed with McKenzie’s heart condition, other people reached out to us and we didn’t feel alone.”

* from NCBI Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 2006 Jan 6; 54 (51)1301

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