Dylan's Heart

Boy with Doctor using Stethoscope
Jim and Melanie couldn't image what was wrong with their
5-month-old baby boy when they first brought him to Children’s Hospital Oakland. Dylan was pale and gaunt. He hardly smiled. In fact, he hardly seemed to have any energy at all.

Children's Hospital Oakland cardiologist Gregg Helton, MD knew immediately that Dylan was a “cardiac baby.” An echocardiogram soon provided a clear picture. Dylan’s heart had a single ventricle anomaly—he was born with only a left ventricle. Because his heart lacked a right ventricle, it was working twice as hard and Dylan’s body was oxygen-starved. Technically, Dylan had been in heart failure since birth

“It takes you out from the knees,” Jim says about the diagnosis. “Your whole life as you know it comes to a complete stop and everything you thought was important becomes so non-important.”

A few days after his visit to Children’s Hospital Oakland, little Dylan underwent the first of 4 major open-heart surgeries (plus 10 additional procedures). A scant 4 months later, Dylan had a second open-heart surgery, and 8 months after that, a third. Before his fourth surgery, Dylan needed to reach 30 pounds in weight. A permanent Gore-Tex tube would be used to connect a vein to an artery. Dylan's heart needed to be large enough so it wouldn’t outgrow the tube.

Gaining weight wasn’t easy for Dylan. As an infant, he hardly ate. It took too much energy to chew and swallow. To get Dylan enough nourishment, Dr. Elizabeth Gleghorn, a Children's Hospital Oakland gastroenterologist, inserted a gastrostomy tube into his stomach. Children’s clinical nutritionist, Gail Seche, prescribed a specially balanced feeding solution to be dripped in five times a day.

Brunette Boy with Bubbles
By March, Dylan finally weighed the necessary 30 pounds, and a successful surgery took place.

Performing extraordinary procedures

Children's Hospital Oakland is dedicated 100% to pediatric medicine. Generations of Californians and beyond have trusted our hospital for our compassionate, specialized care and have benefited from our cutting-edge medical technology. Our staff at Children's is also amazing. Dr. Helton, Dr. Gleghorn, Dr. Seche and the rest of our team of pediatric specialists perform extraordinary procedures every day. And the results speak for themselves! 

Today, Dylan’s blood oxygen level is normal and his complexion is healthy. He’s as feisty and frisky as any child and doesn’t have to stop and rest while his friends and neighbors keep playing.

Children's Hospital Oakland saved Dylan's life. Supporting our hospital makes stories like Dylan's possible.

The cost of care

Jim and Melanie were fortunate. They had generous health insurance. And with help from family, friends and community members who raised additional money, they were able to cover much of the cost of Dylan's surgeries. But thousands of our neighbors here, in Northern California, don’t have those resources—and even private insurance doesn't cover all the costs of the care we provide. In 2010 alone, Children's Hospital Oakland provided charity care and community benefits totaling more than $80 million.

Specialty pediatric care is extremely expensive. With rising costs of healthcare and medical equipment, more uninsured families in our state and inadequate insurance reimbursements, many hospitals in California have decided they just can't afford to make the same commitment to pediatric care.

But at Children's Hospital Oakland, we don't believe that you should put a price on child's health. That's why we count on caring members of our community for support—just as we have for almost a century.

A history of caring

Give to Children's Hospital Oakland
Children's Hospital Oakland has been a caring hospital from the beginning. We were founded in 1912 by two California nurses, Mabel Weed and Bertha Wright. They shared a common vision for providing compassionate, uncompromising, high-quality specialized care. At a time before insurance or Med-Cal, their guiding commitment was to provide a consistent quality of specialty care to the children of families both rich and poor. That's a commitment we carry forward to this day!

Now, Children's Hospital Oakland is the local children's hospital that's also a global research leader. Our pediatric trauma center and pediatric intensive care unit are among the busiest anywhere, while our sickle cell treatment center, bone marrow transplantation program and research center are world-renowned.

Our hospital started with a single, on-staff nurse.  Now, we have more than 160 hospital-based subspecialty pediatric physicians and hundreds of nurses delivering the most extraordinary and highly specialized care imaginable—from open-heart surgery, to bone marrow transplantation to cure cancer, to neonatal intensive care, to life-saving emergency medicine.

But, at Children's Hospital Oakland the most important things haven't really changed at all. Our founding principles of locally based, high-quality care—and putting children first—are still intact. We remain a private, not-for-profit institution serving all children of this region.

We believe that every day of a child's life is precious. And we know that you feel the same way. Please donate today to Children's Hospital Oakland. We need you to help us continue our history of caring. 

And there is even more to Dylan's incredible story. Read about Dylan, his family & his community.

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