When Hilary Wheeler gave birth to her third baby at the Cherese Mari Laulhere BirthCare Center at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach she was thrilled. Baby Hudson Wheeler was welcomed by his mother, father and two siblings on May 23, 2019.After going home, Hudson had no obvious health issues, but during his one-week check-up at his pediatrician’s office, Hudson was diagnosed with a heart murmur, which can signify an abnormality of the heart. Some murmurs are harmless, while others are related to a congenital heart defect.

Hilary Wheeler & Hudson with Dr. Shawn Setty and Dr. Constantinos ChrysostomouFollowing the diagnosis, Hudson was referred to a pediatric cardiologist who performed an echocardiogram - an ultrasound of the heart. The images of the echocardiogram showed that Hudson had a ventricular septal defect (VSD) — a hole in the wall separating the ventricles of his heart. Because of the high possibility of the hole closing with no complications as Hudson grew, his heart was continuously monitored.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for Hudson. As he grew, the hole also continued to grow. When Hudson turned 2-months-old, he suddenly began to lose weight and became very skinny. It was determined that Hudson was going into heart failure and would require an open-heart surgery to repair his ventricular septal defect.

“We were immediately referred to Dr. Shaun Setty, says Hilary. “He noticed the severity of Hudson’s ventricular septal defect and immediately scheduled Hudson’s surgery. I was in complete shock after learning that my baby would have to undergo complex open-heart surgery, but Dr. Setty’s expertise with cases like Hudson’s helped ease my anxieties.”

During the surgery, Shaun Setty, M.D., medical director, pediatric & adult congenital cardiac surgery,

The Larry & Helen Hoag Foundation Endowed Chair in Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgery, discovered an additional hole, which made the surgery longer than anticipated. Thankfully, both holes were successfully closed.

Immediately following surgery, Hudson was taken to the one of the region’s only pediatric Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Units. This state-of-the-art unit was part of the expansion of the Cherese Mari Laulhere Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, providing patients with 24-hour continuous monitoring by a specialized care team of cardiac intensive care doctors, cardiac nurses, respiratory care practitioners, pharmacists and others who are exclusively trained and dedicated to providing pediatric heart care.

hospital staff

The unit includes eight private, spacious rooms, each with a dedicated area for parents to stay with their child during hospitalization. This family-centered approach allows for family members to experience a home-like environment during their child’s stay to reduce anxieties and promote healing.

“During our three-night stay in the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit, we felt much more at ease thanks to the amazing team, says Hilary. “We were lucky to be cared for by the unit’s medical director, Dr. Constantinos Chrysostomou. It was like he never left the hospital. He constantly stopped by to make sure that Hudson and I were comfortable and made sure his recovery was as smooth as possible.”

Hillary & HudsonAfter Hudson’s speedy recovery, he was welcomed home by his older siblings and parents. Just a week after being home, Hudson was back to his normal, happy self. He now receives bi-monthly check-ups and if everything continues to be well, he will only require check-ups every six to twelve months.

“It was a privilege to care for Hudson and his family during one of the most difficult times in their lives,” says Dr. Chrysostomou. “Our mission is to not only to provide our young patients and their families with state-of-the-art cardiac care, but to provide it in the most compassionate way possible – just like we would do it for our own children”

“I am so thankful for the care teams at Miller Children’s & Women’s,” says Hilary. “From the birth of my first child, to Hudson’s stay, I have always had wonderful experiences with everyone at Miller Children’s & Women’s. Thanks to them Hudson is growing as big and mighty as his favorite animal, an elephant!”

The Children’s Heart Institute continues to expand to provide infants, children and teenagers with the specialized cardiac care that they need and is that provides comprehensive cardiac care for children, as early as in utero, through adulthood. The dedicated care team is highly sub-specialized and trained in caring for a child’s tiny heart and provides the latest technologies for diagnosing and treating heart conditions.