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YOUR HEALTH: He got his dad’s heart. That wasn’t necessarily a good thing

From the outside, your child looks perfectly healthy, but babies with congenital heart defects can take a turn very quickly.

NEW YORK CITY – Little Charlie Lowery and dad Patrick are perfectly healthy now but both started their lives with the same life-threatening condition.

Thirty-one years ago, Patrick went downhill the day after he was born.

"I started bleeding through my eyes," he said. "My kidneys were failing.  Everything was shutting down."

Patrick was born with a heart defect called coarctation of the aorta, or COA.   It's a narrowing of the vessel leading away from the heart.

Babies born with heart defects before the 1980`s often did not make it to adulthood, and those who did faced a difficult surgery.

"Because of this obstruction the heart has great difficulty getting blood where it needs to go," said Dr. Robert Pass, Division Chief of Pediatric Cardiology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Doctors repaired Patrick's heart using an artery from his arm.   He went on to play sports and live an active lifestyle.

Patrick and his wife knew their children would have a 10% chance of inheriting the condition.

Their first child, Adriana, was born with a healthy heart, but on Charlie's ultrasound, technicians saw the COA defect.

"The only thing that made it a little easier, I tell people this and they think I'm crazy, I look at Pat and he had it and look at him now," Patrick's wife, Pam said.

Dr. Pass said instead of grafting an artery, Charlie's surgeons used a new approach called end-to-end anastomosis.

"They literally cut out or resect the area that is narrow and they take the two normal ends and literally, sew them together," he explained.

Doctors say a generation ago, only about 50% of the patients born with heart defects survived.   With new techniques, more than 95% of the children survive.

"It's all treatable," said Patrick.  "This can all be fixed."

"I forget. I truly, truly forget that this child had surgery," said Pam.

Doctors say Charlie's heart will grow and stretch as he does meaning a normal life expectancy with very few restrictions.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.