Kennadee-Three open-heart surgeries free from bleak prognosis

When Shawna Albright was pregnant with her daughter Kennadee, doctors told her and her husband Don that the baby would not survive because of her complex heart defects. Two referrals and two echocardiograms later, doctors said there was no way the baby would survive her complex heart defects.

A referral to pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Frank Hanley, MD, at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, where Hanley repairs congenital heart defects that other doctors won’t touch.

In May 2010, Shawna delivered baby Kennadee, Hanley soon realized the tiny girl was one of the most complex patients he had ever seen. Some infants have serious defects inside the heart; others have a hard-to-repair malformation of the artery leading to the lungs. Kennadee’s case was even worse. “Kennadee had the ‘10 out of 10’ pulmonary artery problem, but inside her heart she also had a complex defect that is a 9 or 10 out of 10 on the cardiac side of things,” Hanley said. “It would take three open-heart surgeries to achieve a complete repair,” he said.

Kennadee’s first two operations repaired her blood vessel problem. Her first surgery, a four-hour operation at age 2 weeks, allowed more blood to be pushed through these little vessels, prompting them to grow. It was a key step to prepare her for surgery number two.

The second operation, in September 2010 when Kennadee was 4 months old, was a marathon repair that Hanley, its pioneering inventor, has performed more than 500 times. The long, arduous procedure takes such stamina, focus and experience that very few surgeons attempt it.

So, in her third surgery in March 2011, in a re-plumbing of Kennadee’s heart, Hanley performed an eight-hour “double switch” procedure on the then-10-month-old.

“Without these surgeries, the prognosis for her long-term survival would be close to zero,” Hanley said. “Now, all of her cardiac and lung physiology is completely normal.” And now, Kennadee is looking good, feeling good, playing peek-a-boo and planning to celebrate her first birthday on May 21, an event that once seemed unimaginable.