Meredith Atkinson is a mom of 13-year-old twin girls, one of whom has a congenital heart defect (CHD). Her first visit to Children’s National was when she was about 24 weeks pregnant. She went to the cardiology clinic for a prenatal echocardiogram. During the procedure, one of her daughters was diagnosed with a single-ventricle CHD. The family’s long journey and relationship with the hospital was just being forged.
Shortly after birth, both of her daughters, Sofia and Mirabel, were transferred to Children’s NICU, where one would spend one month and the other two months. After discharge, they made frequent visits to various clinics and the Emergency Department for both daughters, and, of course, to the cardiology clinic.
At 6 months old, Mirabel had her first cardiac catheterization. Then, at 8½ months, she had her first open-heart surgery (OHS). At 15 months, she had her second cath; right after her second birthday, she underwent her second OHS. Days before her sixth birthday, she had a third catheterization. Then, during the summer of her seventh year, she had her third OHS.
Today, Mirabel is strong and healthy—and able to play soccer with her friends and act like a normal 8 year old. But heart disease is chronic, and she isn’t cured. The family’s relationship with Children’s will be for life.
The family has seen many changes at the hospital over the years. Mirabel was in a new and different CICU after each of her surgeries as Children’s National expanded and improved. Staff has changed a lot; people have come and gone, residents have become attendings. But one thing remains the same: Children’s is the place Meredith’s girls call their home away from home.
As a family, they are extraordinarily grateful to Children’s for giving their daughter life and years she otherwise wouldn’t have had. They learned early on that their relationship with Children’s isn’t unique. Many children spend days, weeks and sometimes even months staying in the hospital.
After going through this experience, Meredith and her family feel compelled to help others through these challenges. They’ve been fortunate to be able to give back to the CHD community through involvement with the Children’s Heart Institute’s Family Advisory Board and now the larger hospital community through Meredith’s service as a member of the Patient and Family Advisory Council.