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Affairs of the Heart
Mending a Broken HeartRobot Heart SurgeryThe Heart FactoryHow's Your Heart?
Photo of blockage
  An x-ray reveals an obstruction in the pulmonary artery

Zachary Bartholet was born with a life-threatening heart defect. A combination of drugs and stop-gap surgeries have kept him alive for more than a year. But now 18-month-old Zachary's big enough for the final procedure that will fix his heart for good.

In "Mending a Broken Heart," Alan Alda visits the O.R. as Dr. Richard Jonas, Cardiovascular Surgeon-in-Chief at Boston's Children's Hospital, performs Zachary's third and final open-heart surgery. With the skill of a tailor, Jonas deftly fashions a Gortex tube called a "Fontan" within Zachary's heart. The tube allows Zach's left ventricle to take over all of the heart's responsibilities, sending blood around the entire body as well as the lungs.

As a safety precaution, Jonas leaves a small hole, or fenestration, in the Gortex tube. The fenestration prevents pressure in the man-made artery from building up to heart-stopping levels, a real threat post-surgery. But in older kids, whose larger bodies need the oygenated blood leaking through this valve, this hole often has to be closed.

Photo of Josh
Nine-year old Josh is healthy thanks to Dr. Lock's invention  

A recent innovation by Dr. James Lock, also at Children's Hospital, allows surgeons to close the hole without open-heart surgery. Alan next meets nine-year old Josh as he prepares to undergo the minimally invasive procedure. During surgery, Lock threads the folded device, a sort of miniature cocktail umbrella, through a vein in the Josh's leg and up towards his heart. Once in place, he unfolds the plug, sealing the hole and restoring Josh's circulation. This young boy can now look forward to a long, healthy life.

For more on this topic, see the web feature:
"Zach's Story"

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