St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital Cardiac Patients Reunite for Celebration
Whether it’s been months or years since they’ve undergone a cardiac procedure, all congenital heart defect patients share one common bond: the gift of life. On Saturday, May 20, 2023, dozens of St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital’s heart patients and their families came together as one special group to reunite with the caregivers who helped save their lives and to fellowship with other families who share similar experiences.
Among the patients who attended the special celebration at the Glazer Children’s Museum was 5-month-old Jaxon, who was born with critical pulmonary stenosis, a heart defect which prevents the pulmonary valve from controlling the flow of blood from the heart to the lungs. The condition was diagnosed while Jaxon was still in the womb, and the fetal and perinatal cardiologists in the Patel Children’s Heart Institute at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital monitored the health of both mom and baby throughout the pregnancy.
Jaxon spent 27 days in St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (PCICU), several of them hooked up to a machine that provides cardiac and respiratory life support.
“We absolutely loved reuniting with the doctors and nurses that saved our son’s life, as well as getting to know other families that are going through the same thing,” said Jaxon’s mother, Lauren Giammarco. “We are so grateful to St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital’s cardiac team for organizing the reunion. We’ve all been through so much, but this event gave us an opportunity to celebrate our heart warriors.”
For the family of 3-year-old Brooks, who has Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, the highlight of the evening was meeting 12-year-old Connor, who was born with the same complex heart defect. During the reunion, both patients had the opportunity to fellowship with one of their pediatric cardiologists, Dr. Elsa Suh.
"As a mom of a young heart warrior, meeting Connor and talking with his family about how life looks on the other side of all the surgeries was so helpful," said Brooks' mother, Meghan Miller. "The road is long and hard, but knowing someone is ahead of you on the road and is ready and willing to help you makes the journey so much easier."
The family friendly event included fun activities and games, balloon and caricature artists, face painting, a DJ, and dinner.
“It was wonderful to be able to spend time with our patients away from the hospital setting, and to see them having so much fun and living their best lives,” said Dr. Jarrod Knudson, director of St. Joseph's Children's Hospital's PCICU.
St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital is home to the largest comprehensive congenital heart disease program in Tampa Bay and West Central Florida, and its highly specialized cardiac physicians perform hundreds of procedures each year on patients ranging from babies in the womb to adults with congenital heart disease. A partnership between St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital and UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh provides families across Florida with unprecedented access to the highest level of pediatric heart care available.