Jackson Griffin
Not Feature Story
Just moments after Jackson Griffin was born on October 5, 2012, doctors at Flowers Hospital in Dothan knew he would need the help of Children’s of Alabama and its heart surgery team in order to survive. “We found out that Jackson had a congenital heart defect,” says his mother, Debbie. “He was flown to Children’s three hours after he was born.”

Jackson suffered from “d-transposition of the great arteries.” When d-transposition occurs in the heart, the aorta and pulmonary arteries are reversed. Because the arteries are connecting to the wrong chambers in the heart, the oxygenated and deoxygenated blood cannot mix appropriately – and that makes the baby look very blue.

“Jackson needed a complex procedure called an arterial switch,” says his surgeon, Robert J. Dabal M.D., an assistant professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at UAB. “You move the aorta and pulmonary artery back to their normal positions. The aorta is connected to the left ventricle, and the pulmonary artery is connected to the right ventricle. The coronary arteries, which carry the oxygen-rich blood that nourishes the heart muscle, also are re-attached to the new aorta.”

The operation lasted five hours, and the change in Jackson was immediate, Debbie says. “Before the surgery, he was blue and struggling for every breath he took. But after the surgery, even though he was swollen and puffy, he just had a peace about him. He could breathe easily, his color was good and he looked alive.”

Daniel, Jackson’s father, says he appreciates the care given to the entire family while Jackson was hospitalized. “We had chaplains checking on us. Jackson had two nurses there just for him the entire time he was in the Cardiac ICU. Two doctors were only a shout away – not ever more than 20 feet from him. They treated Jackson as if he were their own son and tried to comfort us as much as they could.”

Despite his rocky start to life, a year later Jackson is hitting all his developmental milestones – and Dr. Dabal credits his entire team when he speaks about his patient’s excellent prognosis. “We have a completely contained cardiovascular center at Children’s – one with a comprehensive ICU including all of the staff needed to help children like Jackson,” he says. “It takes a lot of people to do what we do, and that’s a strength that we have such an excellent team.

“Jackson is fortunate because no one would ever know (about his heart defect) unless they see the scar on his chest. He’ll be a normal, healthy, active little boy.”