Flushing couple calls attention to rare heart defect

By Sarina Trangle

Carolina Osorio spent the last four months of her pregnancy worrying about how her infant’s rare heart defect would affect the child.

The Flushing mother said she began to feel more confident when doctors introduced her to a family whose child also had a transposition of the great arteries, where a vessel carrying blood to the lungs and another bringing blood to the rest of the body were switched and attached to the wrong sides of the heart.

Now, two months after their baby Aleeah Queszada was born, Osorio and boyfriend Carlos Queszada sought to pass along this sense of assurance to other parents by discussing the heart defect at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park last Friday.

“We felt pretty alone because we didn’t know anything about the heart problem. We just wanted to raise awareness, to show and prove that this kind of problem can be successful,” Osorio said. “It’s not as grim as it may look at the beginning.”

With Aleeah squealing and squirming on her hip, Osorio and Queszada recounted the first sign of the infant’s condition. An obstetrician detected an abnormality in an ultrasound during a routine checkup five months into Osorio’s pregnancy.

She scheduled a follow-up appointment, where Preeta Dhanantwari, director of the fetal heart program at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, and her team diagnosed the fetus with transposition of the great arteries.

The condition can be fatal because it depletes the oxygen level in the baby’s blood stream immediately after birth. As in Aleeah’s case, doctors must often perform open heart surgery on newborns shortly after they are born.

Vincent Parnell, surgeon in chief of pediatric cardiac surgery at the medical center, said roughly 20 to 30 of every 100,000 infants are born with a transposition. Cohen Children’s Medical Center treats about four to six babies with the same condition as Aleeah every year.

Osorio gave birth to Aleeah Dec. 29. Immediately following her birth, Aleeah was rushed to a special unit. On Jan. 2, Parnell completed a procedure that switched where the two large arteries connect to Aleeah’s heart. A machine carried out the work of Aleeah’s heart and lungs during the operation.

Osorio remained in the hospital recovering from a C-section during the procedure. She described waiting with Queszada at her side to hear how the surgery went as one of the longest four hours of her life.

“We had time to prepare mentally, but it’s still very, very difficult. The four hours, I just cried,” said Osorio, a first-time mom. “There was also the fact that I would not have a normal delivery experience, I would not be able to hold my baby. The baby would not be able to meet grandparents.”

Aleeah recovered quickly and her parents took her to their Flushing home within a week.

Her parents and doctors said Aleeah now requires routine checkups but is expected to live a fairly normal life.

Osorio said her daughter would simply need to check in with a cardiologist before altering her lifestyle, such as signing up for a sport.

“We’re very confident, optimistic that this is the way it will always be,” the mother said.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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