A Kid With a Big Smile and Now a Stronger Heart

A Kid With a Big Smile and Now a Stronger Heart

Ever met a kid so cute you just want to squeeze him? Yes, it’s COVID-time and we don’t really do big hugs right now, but it would surely cross your mind if you met 6-year-old Liam Davey.

And what makes those hugs so much sweeter is the fact that Liam might not even be here or be the strong, healthy child he is had he not been able to get to one of the best pediatric heart teams in the country for lifesaving surgeries.

“I was born at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital and I’ve had three open heart surgeries,” Liam boasts in his small voice.

Liam was born with heart defects. Prenatal care for his mom, Heather, indicated a problem, but it wasn’t until she was transferred to OU Health and paired with the pediatric cardiothoracic team at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital that a diagnosis could be made.

As soon as Liam was born he was rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where he had a first ultrasound and echocardiogram, explains Heather. “They discovered the double-whammy heart condition,” said Heather. A Coarctation of the Aorta was the first of Liam’s heart problems. The second was a Vascular Ring.

“A Coarctation of the Aorta is a birth defect in which a part of the aorta is narrower than it is supposed to be. If the narrowing is severe the baby may have serious problems and surgery soon after birth is necessary,” says Harold Burkhart, M.D., Liam’s pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon and Chief of the Division of Cardiac, Thoracic and Vascular Surgery. “It’s considered a critical congenital heart defect because the narrowing, or coarctation, blocks normal blood flow to the rest of the body.”

A Vascular Ring is seen in less than 1 percent of all congenital heart problems and typically occurs early on in pregnancy.

“To put it very simply, it is where vessels of the heart grow around the esophagus and windpipe (trachea), essentially causing a strangulating band,” explains Burkhart. “In a normal heart, those vessels grow and develop to the side of the trachea and esophagus and everything works like it is supposed to.”

For 1-week-old Liam, these conditions meant his first open-heart surgery.

“The doctors were able to repair the coarctation and the vascular ring. The problems were fixed and we thought we were done,” Heather explains. “But then in March of 2017, we came back to Oklahoma Children’s with rhinovirus.”

Rhinovirus is the main culprit behind the common cold for most of us. Most rhinovirus infections are mild, but they can sometimes lead to bronchiolitis and pneumonia – especially in babies.​ For pediatric heart patients it is often much worse.

“Rhinovirus in heart kiddos attacks their hearts and shuts it down,” Heather said. “He went into congestive heart failure and that’s when they discovered the functioning of his heart was really weak. His left main coronary artery was blocked. He could have had full cardiac arrest. “

Liam’s second heart surgery was to clear a blocked artery. He spent a month in the hospital getting over his other infections before surgery could be safely done.

“We cleared the artery with a coronary artery repair procedure,” details Burkhart. “We were all surprised when just a few months later we’d have to go in again and clear the same artery but in a different place. He’s a very unique case but a great little fighter. After the second surgery he made a really spectacular recovery.”

Burkhart said Liam’s third surgery was a little tougher. Now Liam has an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) and he is full steam ahead. The ICD device connects to the heart and continuously monitors and regulates it. At 6, Liam is going to school and into swimming and scouting. He meets with Dr. Burkhart and his team for regular checkups.

Liam loves his medical team and even looks forward to the visits. “Dr. B is very funny because he has a silly hat,” smiles Liam. “My favorite part of going to the hospital is getting toys.”

A key part of the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital commercial, the sky’s the limit for Liam. Keep your eyes peeled for him to possibly find his way to prime time or the big screen.

Learn more about Oklahoma Children’s Hospital pediatric heart services, and watch Liam in our latest Oklahoma Children’s Hospital commercial at www.oklahomachildrens.org/kidssoar.