Anna Robin Wignall
Jefferson County
Feature Story
An ultrasound of Nick and Emily Wignall’s daughter, Anna Robin, at 28 weeks in utero revealed a congenital heart defect. While the discovery was an unforeseen surprise, the course of action was not. “We were quickly referred to pediatric cardiology at Children’s of Alabama,” said Emily, also a nurse practitioner at Children’s. “It was great because we were able to talk to the doctors and have a plan in place well before her birth to best take care of her.”

Anna Robin was diagnosed with Taussig-Bing syndrome, a rare heart malformation that consists of transposition of the aorta to the right ventricle and malposition of the pulmonary artery with subpulmonary ventricular septal defect. After a scheduled delivery at 39 weeks, Anna Robin was transported to Children’s just two days after her birth. At just 8 days old, she underwent her first heart surgery. The surgical team planned an arterial switch operation to correct the transposition of the great arteries, as well as increase the size of her aortic arch, and close a hole in the wall separating the two lower chambers of her heart.

“Originally, the plan was to have just this one operation and have it all done,” Emily said. “But during surgery, Dr. Robert Dabal recognized a problem with one of her coronary arteries no one knew about, which made closing the hole too risky. Had he not found that, the surgery wouldn’t have had the same good outcome.”

Anna’s Robin’s surgery went well despite the setback. After about a month in the hospital, she was discharged home. The new plan was to give her time to grow and gain weight before having another heart surgery. “Every couple of months we’d visit the cardiologist for a checkup,” Emily said. “It was really just a matter of time as to when they thought she would be big enough for another surgery.”

Doctors decided Anna Robin was ready for a surgery to finally repair the rest of her heart at 16 months old. “It was amazing we were able to wait that long because initially we thought she would have to at six months old,” Emily said.

Dr. Dabal also performed Anna Robin’s second surgery, and this time he closed the hole in her heart and opened her pulmonary outflow tract. “It went really well,” Emily said. “She did amazing and was able to come home after just about a week.”

With all needed repairs complete, Anna Robin has quickly become a typical toddler. She’s meeting every milestone and developing well. “Just looking at her, you would never know everything she’s been through,” Emily said. “She’s growing up and having the opportunity to just be a kid. I just can’t speak highly enough of the doctors and nurses at Children’s. We couldn’t have gone through all of that without the help of everyone there. They were so supportive and really went the extra mile. They sincerely cared.”