Pediatric Heart Patients Give Thanks With Notes, Hugs at Miami Children's Hospital Reunion

The congenital heart defect program at Miami Children's is the largest in the state

To his young patients and their families, Dr. Redmond Burke is a superstar.

"It was my honor to fix your heart. Your parents trusted me with your heart, so I did the best I could," Burke told a little boy who pulled up his shirt to show off his scar.

At Miami Children’s Hospital's yearly reunion for pediatric heart patients, there was a line to thank the cardiac surgeon.

"Dr. Burke actually did Emily's surgery twice,” said grateful mother Lori German. “He did an open-heart surgery on her when she was 12 weeks old in 2002 and then he did another one in 2010. And it has changed her life immensely."

Patients brought thank you notes, took pictures, hugged, and prayed over their doctor.

The congenital heart defect program at Miami Children's is the largest in the state. They now do more than 300 surgeries a year.

Families of Young Heart Surgery Patients Get Gifts

Analiah Duarte turns one on Sunday. Her mother found out when she was 4 months pregnant that her baby would be born with a very serious valve deformity.

"Her heart was really big when she born," said her mother, Johana Duarte.

"I remember when she was on the bed with the tubes and everything she was just there sleeping. Now she's like hyper happy," said Analiah's big sister Jocelin.

When she was only 20 days old, Analiah had open-heart surgery. Her valve was replaced with something that had not been used in a tiny infant.

"Analiah's heart is unique because she has one of the first valves made out of extracellular matrix, which is the part of a pig's intestine that we shaped into a valve," Burke explained.

Toddler Home After Heart Transplant

When young children get new valves they usually need them to be replaced as they grow. But this new material is expected to grow with her.

"This new material extracellular matrix may enable us to repair or replace heart valves and never have to re-operate on them. So that's our hope," Burke said.

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