Northwest NEWS

October 22, 2001


Heart procedures give three year old new lease on life

by Deborah Stone
   Features Writer
   Three-year-old Kate Carpenter, of Woodinville, was born with a hole in her heart, a condition called "Patent Ductus Arterosis."
   The hole forced blood to flow to her lungs causing lung congestion and putting a strain on her heart. As a result, Kate had difficulty performing simple activities and sometimes it was even tough for her to breathe. She was often forced to sit passively on the sidelines while her older sister, Emily, played outside with all the neighborhood children.
   "She would get really winded and experience shortness of breath with most physical activities," explains Karen Carpenter, Kate's mother. "It was so hard for her to have to just watch the other kids and it was hard for us because there was little we could do to help the situation."
   At 16 months, Kate underwent her first heart procedure, performed at Children's Hospital Medical Center, in an attempt to the close the hole in her heart.
   Just a few years ago, a patient born with this condition had to have open-heart surgery, an intensive procedure that left a scar and required many weeks of recovery time.
   Fortunately for Kate and the Carpenters, Children's is one of the leading heart specialty hospitals in the nation, with some of the best cutting-edge techniques in the cardiac field. Doctors at Children's have developed a procedure that now allows them to close the hole in Kate's heart without making a single incision.
   A small catheter was inserted into Kate's groin, which then snaked up to her heart. Through sophisticated x-ray video, surgeons knew the exact location of the hole and then were able to deliver a tiny coil plug through the catheter to the heart. The coil plug filled the gap.
   The procedure took place in the Cardiac Catherization Lab and lasted thirty minutes, allowing Kate to go home the same day.
   It became apparent, however, after some time had elapsed, that she needed to undergo a second procedure, as there was still some backflow of blood to her lungs. Last May, Kate went to Children's once again to repeat the same procedure; this time it was deemed a complete success.
   "We had seen a growth spurt occur in her after the first time, but then after the second one, we saw an even bigger spurt," comments Karen. "She feels great and her temperament is more even-keeled than before. She used to be very cranky and irritable, especially when she wasn't feeling well. Now, she's a lot of fun to be around. Also, her stamina is fine and she can do any type of physical exercise without limitations or problems. She spent the summer swimming, skipping, jumping, climbing and pedaling her bike, successfully keeping up with the rest of the kids."
   Karen is very grateful to the staff at Children's for all that they did to help Kate. She has raves for their support system for both children and their families and admits that her expectations were more than fulfilled, each step of the way.
   She says, "I am a nurse myself, but it's so different when it's your child who's faced with a medical situation. I needed help. I needed explanations and I needed comfort. They were responsive to all our needs."
   Kate's story was one of several featured last June as part of the "Miracle Makers" broadcast to benefit Children's Hospital, an annual event that raised more than $5.5 million.
   The money goes to the Uncompensated Care Fund at the hospital to ensure that no child, regardless of his/her ability to pay, is denied medical care.
   Kate and her family have also helped raise additional money for this fund through an appearance at the Friends of Costco Guild of Children's Hospital golf and dinner-auction event last month. KOMO TV's Kathy Goertzen, a longtime supporter of Children's attended and soon became fast friends with little Kate Carpenter, who charmed everyone she met.
   In addition, Kate's story will be heard next month on Kiss 106.1, as part of the station's radiothon to raise money for the hospital and she will also be included in the KOMO Telethon in December.
   "We feel privileged to help raise money for Children's," comments Karen. "It feels good to be able to give something back to the hospital and to have a sense of service. Children's provides the best care it can by bringing in top-notch medical professionals and attracting the finest people, from surgeons and doctors to nurses, technicians and receptionists."
   Recently, Kate learned that she had been chosen as Children's Poster Child of the Year. After her meeting with Kathy Goertzen, it was decided that she would make the perfect candidate. Her picture with that of Goertzen will be used for promotional purposes at many of the hospital's future benefits.
   "Kate is delighted with all the attention," says Karen. "She basks in it and she makes a great spokesperson, too. She can talk about what happened to her and explain how she feels now as compared to how she felt before.
   "Plus, she's really animated and has a spunky personality. She's just a different person now that she has a new lease on life."