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Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)

Stacy Wilkins knew it was possible her daughter, Jazz LaRue, would be born with an atrial septal defect (ASD), commonly referred to as a hole in the heart. She had been diagnosed with it herself at the age of 14. But Stacy was still surprised when doctors discovered Jazz’s ASD during one of her first routine pediatrician appointments. By then, it had gone undetected throughout Stacy’s entire pregnancy, including a special ultrasound that looked closely at Jazz’s heart. “When nothing was found in that ultrasound, I really thought we had nothing to worry about,” Stacy said. “When we were with the pediatrician, she noticed that Jazz had an irregular heartbeat, and it was diagnosed from there. We were very fortunate that she caught it so early.”
Because Jazz’s diagnosis came early, she wasn’t yet experiencing any other symptoms or problems. No life changes were necessary other than regular visits with a cardiologist, who would monitor the hole, which doctors said was too big to close on its own. “Fortunately, a surgery wasn’t something that had to be done immediately,” Stacy said. “We just knew that Jazz would eventually need surgery to close the hole. But we thankfully had time to prepare for it as it would be a few years down the road.”
The time for surgery came when Jazz had just turned 6. But it wouldn’t be possible in the family’s hometown of Huntsville; Jazz would need to go to either Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt or Children’s of Alabama. “We decided to go with Children’s (of Alabama) after speaking to multiple people and also researching the two,” Stacy said. “Children’s felt like the right choice.” 
Once the surgery was scheduled, Stacy spoke with Children’s of Alabama cardiologist Mark Law, M.D., who would perform the surgery. “He talked with us prior to the surgery to answer our questions and make sure we understood exactly what would be going on,” Stacy said. “He and the team prepped us for it very well, but of course you’re still worried when it’s your child. Knowing you’re not in control and having to hand your child over to someone else and that her life was out of your hands is hard no matter what.”
Jazz’s surgery took place in July 2022 in the Children’s catheterization lab, where surgeons implanted a device to seal the hole. While in surgery, doctors found a second hole in her heart and sealed it with a second device. “Everything went well with the surgery, but the next day an ultrasound revealed that one device had been dislodged,” Stacy said. “It had somehow been pushed to her aorta.”
Doctors took Jazz back in for surgery to remove the device from her aorta. But first, Law made sure Stacy and Jazz’s father, Duane LaRue, understood what was going on and that they were comfortable. “Dr. Law was so empathetic with us,” Stacy said. “We knew it was personal for Dr. Law to make sure Jazz was going to be OK. He communicated everything we needed to know and that he wasn’t leaving that day until they got the device out and Jazz was OK.”
Law and his team successfully removed the device from Jazz’s aorta. “The decision was made to leave the second hole alone since Jazz had been through so much already, and the hope is that since the hole is so small that she may never require another procedure,” Stacy said.
After just a couple of nights in the hospital, Jazz was released to go home. Soon, she was enjoying her favorite activities, including making friends wherever she goes. “Jazz never meets a stranger,” Stacy said. “She’s such a thoughtful and all-around great child. She definitely leaves her print wherever she goes.”
Jazz continues to have routine check-ups with a cardiologist, and so far, no further treatment has been required. Stacy is grateful for that and for all the care Jazz received at Children’s. “We’ve had such a good experience with Dr. Law, his team and all of the nurses at Children’s,” she said. “I am so glad we chose Children’s. It means so much that they were so communicative and friendly when we were there for such a stressful time, and even today, I know I can reach out to Dr. Law, and he will respond to answer any question I have. That means a lot to me.”