Implantable defibrillators treat irregular heart rhythms in kids

William Sol-Garcia & Dr. Anne Dubin

When William Sol-Garcia puts on boxing gloves, he’s just like any other 17-year-old who loves hitting the punching bag. And, he prefers it that way.

William is described as a “natural athlete” by his mom, Aimee Sol. But behind the scenes there’s something that makes his boxing and athleticism a more extraordinary feat: the implantable cardioverter defibrillator he received through the top-ranked Heart Center at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and Stanford Children’s Health.

In the beginning

William was born with tetralogy of Fallot, a deadly condition that combines four defects of the heart. At 6 days old, William underwent his first open heart surgery, and since then, there have been four more open heart surgeries, The surgeries kept him out of sports for months at a time.

Then, at age 10, William started waking up at night feeling dizzy. His concerned mother took him to his pediatric cardiologist, who referred him to an advanced care team at the Packard Children’s Heart Center. After testing, it was determined William was a candidate for the implantable cardioverter defibrillator.

“We weren’t expecting it,” Aimee said. “I didn’t even know a defibrillator could be put into a child.”

An ICD is an innovative electronic device in the chest that monitors the heart’s electrical activity and shocks the heart back into a normal rhythm when an irregular rhythm occurs. For William and other patients with a high risk of having a life-threatening cardiac arrhythmia from congenital heart disease or inherited heart disease, getting an ICD can help prevent the heart’s electrical system from malfunctioning.

“Strain on the heart muscle can certainly lead to sudden death,” said Anne Dubin, MD, director of the electrophysiology and arrhythmia service.

At 11, he had the ICD implanted in his chest. “It was really scary,” William said. “But my care team was honest and open. They pretty much took my hand and told me everything about how it was going to play out.”

William, a high school junior from Santa Clara, California, is one of 75 patients Dubin’s team follows. The group consists of Dubin; Scott Ceresnak, MD; Kara Motonaga, MD; nurse practitioners Debra Hanisch and Tony Trela; and Lauren Schneider, PsyD.

implantable cardioverter defibrillator

Treating the whole patient through family-centered care

The ICD procedure and life afterward can be a little nerve-wracking.

“When your child needs an ICD, you have 100 questions running through your mind,” Aimee, said. “Dr. Dubin explained that it was like an insurance policy. The one day William may need it, it will be there for him.”

It’s this type of family-centered care and communication that makes the difference. “Dr. Dubin and her team turned a scary situation into something that we can now say is not so bad,” Aimee said.

“Our main goal is to help kids get back to their lives,” Schneider added. “This requires that we treat the whole patient and focus not just on their physical, but also their mental health needs.”

The Future

These days, William is spending a great deal of time on cardio and strength training along with working out on that punching bag.

“William has made incredible strides,” said Dubin. “After his diagnosis, he went from someone who understandably was fearful and depressed to a confident young man who is a role model for children facing the same challenges. Our entire team is proud of William. He has shown us, and our other patients, that no matter what limitations you may face, there are ways of overcoming them and flourishing.”

* Find out more about our electrophysiology and arrhythmia services.

* Read how our Children’s Heart Center outcomes surpass peer hospital averagesdespite tackling the most complex cases in the U.S.

Discover more about Electrophysiology and Arrhythmia.

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One Response to “Implantable defibrillators treat irregular heart rhythms in kids”

  1. Ellie

    Thank you for sharing this story! It really helped me understand what it is like for the person going through this, and what that family must feel like. I like how you included information about his future, and what’s to come for him. Thanks again!

    Reply

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