Great-Grandmother and Great-Granddaughter Both Share Special Hearts

Emma Thill and her great-grandmother, Susan Engstrom, both received the same non-invasive heart valve replacement four months apart. Even though they’re separated by almost 70 years of age, the same method of non-surgical treatment was used. Though Emma was nervous about the procedure, knowing that she had a relative going through the same treatment procedure in the near future helped. 

Emma was born and diagnosed with a rare congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot, a condition consisting of four heart defects that can decrease the amount of oxygen being delivered throughout the body via circulating blood. She had multiple surgeries as an infant to patch holes in her heart chambers to improve heart function. Since then, doctors have been monitoring her and when they discovered that she was frequently winded and tired while playing with friends or going to school, they decided to schedule her valve replacement. Susan wasn’t born with her heart condition but instead developed it later in life. She was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy back around 2012. Additionally, in the past year, Susan was diagnosed with aortic stenosis, or the stiffening of the aortic valve which is responsible for monitoring blood flow from the largest vessel in the body. This is when physicians at the University of Minnesota, including Varun Aggarwal, MBBS, FAAP, Assistant Professor in the Division of Pediatric Cardiology with the Department of Pediatrics,  decided to perform the non-invasive surgery, linking Susan and her great-granddaughter in a special way. Though both patients had different conditions, Dr. Aggarwal explained that after the artificial valve was originally approved, this allowed for other trial based usages for other conditions. This meant that with good outcomes, the device could be used for multiple conditions that fit certain criteria. To read the full article and more about Emma and Susan’s story, follow this link.