Modern medicine helps congenital heart defects patients live longer

Radiofrequency energy could save patients’ lives

DENVER – If you were born 40 years ago with a hole in your heart, a blocked valve or narrow arteries, you probably wouldn’t live to be a teenager.

While congenital heart defects are still the most common birth defects, more people these days are living into their 30′s, 40′s and 50′s, thanks to modern medicine.

Camden Thuringe has been a regular patient of pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Abhay Divekar, since he was just hours old.

"He was born, and he was really blue," said Jenny Thuringe, Camden's mom.

"The right lower chamber of the heart going to the lungs was completely blocked," Divekar said.

Divekar used radiofrequency energy to create a pathway that saved Camden’s life.

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Camden followed Divekar from a hospital in Iowa City, to a hospital in Kansas City and then to Denver, where he works now.

"I'd rather stay with one doctor where he knows everything inside of his heart," Jenny Thuringe said.

Meanwhile, it took Veronica Dean 40 years to find the right doctor.

“I had surgery at five-months-old,” she said.

Born missing a ventricle, Dean was told not to participate in sports.

"I've always had the mentality of 'I'm limited,'" Dean said.

She saw doctors without a history of treating teens or adults with congenital heart defects.

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"Adult cardiologists are good in cardiology, but that spectrum of heart disease is very different," said Divekar, who is one of the first doctors in the country to be certified as a pediatric and adult congenital heart disease cardiologist.

"He gave me a new outlook at life," Veronica said.

Camden will need his heart valve replaced someday so he can continue doing what he loves - playing football and basketball.

Just four years ago, the American Board of Internal Medicine recognized the need for a sub-specialty of adult congenital heart disease and administered the first board certification.


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