‘We didn’t think he would survive’: Fighting heart disease in kids

Published: Feb. 7, 2022 at 6:55 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - This Miracle Monday, we’re shining a light on American Heart Month. Each year, nearly one in 100 babies are born with a heart defect in the U.S.

We caught up with one surgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Georgia and one of his patients who needed surgery at just 13 days old.

“Nervous, fear, a lot of fear, I cried,” said Justin and Iris Smokes, Avery’s parents.

That’s what they felt when they found out their then-unborn baby, Avery would have to have heart surgery after birth to fix a couple of heart defects.

“Because we didn’t have a lot of information at the beginning, we were just very very worried. We didn’t think he would survive the surgery or the complex of what was happening,” they said.

Avery had his first surgery at 13 days old, then another at 3 months, two years old, and most recently, last August. All correcting the blood flow from his heart to different parts of his body.

“They told us he was going to need surgeries and that he was going to be fine, and I think being with them and they are so comfortable and confident in what they’re doing, they increased our confidence like he’s going to be OK,” they said.

Dr. James St. Louis is a pediatric and congenital heart surgeon. He is leading one of two programs in the state of Georgia that deal with complex heart disease in kids.

“Our numbers are large, and it’s been very satisfying in dealing with the patients and families of this state,” he said.

St. Louis is working to grow the program and says it wouldn’t be possible without the community.

“It’s critical both for our infrastructure, both for our resources, both for patient management and patient follow-up, or we wouldn’t be able to do this,” he said.

For 4-year-old Avery, his parents say he is doing great and should not have to have any more surgeries, but he’ll have to see a cardiologist for the rest of his life

“He’s a train lover, trucks. He’s a helper, very independent. Sometimes he thinks he’s our boss,” they said.

If you’d like to help make miracles possible for families just like theirs, visit AU Health.

Copyright 2022 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.