Father and son both healthy after heart defects at birth

FRESNO, Calif. -- Little Charlie Lowery and dad, Patrick, are perfectly healthy now, but both started their lives with the same life-threatening condition. Thirty-one years ago, Patrick went downhill the day after he was born.

"I started bleeding through my eyes. My kidneys were failing. Everything was shutting down," Lowery said.

Patrick was born with a heart defect called Coarctation of The Aorta or COA, a narrowing of the vessel leading away from the heart.

"Because of this obstruction the heart has great difficulty getting blood where it needs to go, said Robert Pass, MD/Division chief of pediatric cardiology.

Doctors repaired Patrick's heart using an artery from his arm. He went on to play sports and live an active lifestyle. Patrick and his wife knew their children would have a 10 percent chance of inheriting the condition.

Big sister Adriana was born with a healthy heart, but on Charlie's ultrasound, technicians saw the COA defect.

"The only thing that made it a little easier, I tell people this and they think I'm crazy. I look at Pat, and he had it. And look at him now," Pam said.

Pass says instead of grafting an artery, Charlie's surgeons used a new approach called end-to-end anastomosis.

"They literally cut out or resect the area that is narrow, take the two normal ends and literally sew them together," Pass said.

"It's all treatable," Patrick said. "This can all be fixed."

"I forget. I truly, truly forget that this child had surgery," Pam said.

Doctors says a generation ago, only about 50 percent of the patients born with heart defects survived. With new techniques, more than 95 percent of the children survive.