• Cardiology Patient Stories

    A new heart, new hope for a newborn

Travis Heidt was holding his son, Franklin, for the first time. "It was a very joyous time and also an overwhelming time," says the first-time parent.

He was unsure of how to hold Franklin, unsure of how to care for him. But Travis knew that he and his wife, Morgan, would figure it out. They had a beautiful boy. He and Morgan had created a family.

"The second that he came out, something changed inside of me," Travis says. "Everything was perfect. There was nothing else to think about."

That would soon change.

Little Franklin was born with a severely damaged heart. After just 24 hours of the "perfect bliss of a family," the Heidts were told their son had failed his newborn heart screening. He needed care beyond what was available in their hometown of Dickinson, North Dakota.

Franklin was flown first to a hospital in Fargo, and then to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, where doctors determined that to fix Franklin's broken heart, they would need to replace it. The Heidts' newborn son needed a heart transplant.

"You never imagine hearing that for anybody that you care about, especially your firstborn child," Travis says.

We've had so many doctors and residents sit down and essentially cry with us and talk us through some of the hardest parts of our life. It was just kind of amazing to be so supported.

Morgan Heidt

The Heidts were stunned. But in the hours after learning about Franklin's heart issues, Travis and Morgan made a pact.

"We came to the general consensus of whatever was best for Franklin, whatever would give him the most normal life, that's the route we would take," Morgan says. "From that point on, we decided that no matter what, as long as it was the best option for Franklin, that's what we would go forward with."

Franklin was listed for a heart transplant. Then his team needed to come up with a plan to make sure he would survive long enough to have the procedure.

Watch a video on Frankie's story

"The next decision point was how to keep him stable while he waited for a heart," says Elizabeth Stephens, M.D., Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic pediatric cardiovascular surgeon. "That's when as a team we had to think outside of the box."

The solution Dr. Stephens and her colleagues came up with was to place two devices, a pulmonary flow restrictor and PDA stent, in Franklin's heart.

"Reviewing his case with several of my other colleagues, we were able to offer Franklin a therapy that really didn't exist," says Jason Anderson, M.D., a pediatric interventional cardiologist. "We are on the forefront of utilizing this technology."

While it was a new approach, the team felt it was the right approach for Franklin.

"We want to adhere to what's best, and some of what's newest may in fact be the best," says Joseph Dearani, M.D., a pediatric cardiovascular surgeon and director of Pediatric and Adult Congenital Heart Surgery at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. "We want to be sitting on both sides of that treatment option for patients that come here for care."

We want to adhere to what's best, and some of what's newest may in fact be the best.

Joseph Dearani, M.D.

The devices worked as planned, keeping Franklin stable until he received a new heart when he was just 27 days old.

While their son's first month was stressful and frightening, the Heidts' say it was made easier by the support they received at Mayo Clinic.

"We've had so many doctors and residents sit down and essentially cry with us and talk us through some of the hardest parts of our life," Morgan says. "It was just kind of amazing to be so supported."

That support extended beyond medicine. Music therapists soothed nerves. A nurse arranged for a chaplain to baptize and anoint Franklin. And the doctors, nurses and others who cared for Franklin began to feel like more than the titles on their badges.

"The Mayo team started to become a family," Travis says. "It was a good feeling to have that sense of family at the hospital. There's nowhere else we'd rather have gone through all this other than Mayo."