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Phoenix Children's paves the way for care of adult patients of childhood heart conditions

Posted at 9:41 AM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-04 11:41:16-05

PHOENIX — As we celebrate Valentine’s Day with love and happy hearts, Adam Smith is also celebrating his healthy heart.

“I was born what they call a 'blue baby,' because I wasn’t getting enough oxygen so I was literally blue,” says Smith outside of Phoenix Children’s hospital, as he showed us his baby albums from the 1980s.

From the moment he took his first breaths of life, Smith has seen his days on Earth as a miracle.

"My chest looks like a road map but it tells the story of my life,” he adds.

He was first diagnosed with Pulmonary Atresia, which basically means that the pulmonary artery was narrowing, impeding the flow of blood to his lungs. He’s had a total of five surgeries, with the first happening the day after he was born.

“That surgery happened on my second day of life; about two months after that, they discovered a cyst in my heart, and that was my second open-heart surgery,” he adds.

Through the years, more surgeries came along. In fact, he’s been diagnosed with having four different heart conditions that have made life difficult.

“But I do want to thank my parents because they taught me that this is who I am and to be proud of that,” he adds.

Smith is cognizant of the fact that his chances of survival were low in 1985 when he was born.

“There wasn’t a lot known about patients like myself because a lot of patients didn’t survive,” he adds.

Smith falls into specialty care in a group called Adult Congenital Heart Disease, which wasn’t formally recognized until 2017.

“The specialty has grown to now be a stand-alone specialty where we focus on the adult survivors of pediatric heart disease. Adam, there’s a lot of patients like him in a sense because these types of patients are more common than children. Meaning, there are more adults with congenital heart disease than children,” says Dr. Wayne Franklin, Smith's doctor at Phoenix Children’s.

Dr. Franklin, the co-director of the Children’s Heart Center within Phoenix Children’s, worked for over a year to receive accreditation from the Adult Congenital Heart Association in order to provide care for adults who have had heart defects since childbirth.

“What we are finding out now is these patients are not cured, they’ve sometimes had multiple surgeries, but rarely are they cured, so they are always going to need cardiac care,” adds Dr. Franklin.

The recent accreditation means adult patients of childhood heart conditions will have a place to go in Arizona able to treat them fully. Smith says he is grateful to have Dr. Franklin at his side in case any other surgeries are needed.

“You know, when I was a baby I was fortunate enough that doctors were able to patch me up and get me to work and now I have Dr. Franklin to take me from here forward,” adds Smith.