By Jenifer Horn APN, Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program at Lurie Children’s
Graduation season is upon us! This time of year, students and families are celebrating as they look towards their future and reflect on the journey that brought them to this point. Graduation not only reflects an academic milestone, but a symbolic transition from childhood to adulthood.
For those born with a congenital heart disease (CHD) and their loved ones, this milestone has great significance and may reflect a day they never imagined reaching. Fortunately, due to advances in CHD care, 90 percent of children will reach adulthood and have the opportunity to not only graduate from high school but also trade school, college etc.
But what happens when CHD patients graduate from pediatric cardiology? Are they done with cardiology forever? Are they cured? Does their scar become an interesting story and nothing more? The answer to all these questions is no.
Patients born with a CHD require lifelong, specialized cardiac care. What exactly does that mean? It means an adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) team consisting of cardiologists, advanced practice providers, nurses, surgeons etc. that are educated and focused on caring for adults with CHD.
Here at Lurie Children’s, our ACHD team is integrated directly into the Heart Center. Working closely with our pediatric colleagues, our goal is to make your transition from pediatric cardiology to ACHD seamless and smooth. However, this process is not one sided. Much like graduating from school, you will need to gain knowledge and education to meet your “Pediatric Cardiology Graduation Requirements.”
It is best to start learning this information (see below) during the early teen years so that you’re an expert by the time your transition occurs.
Your pediatric cardiology team and family can help you learn this information. Don’t be afraid to ask questions at every cardiology clinic visit. It is ok if you ask the same question multiple times, we know it is difficult information! You can also visit the following websites to learn more about CHD on your own:
Congratulations again on your graduation! We look forward to being your new cardiology team and helping you achieve your goals in life.
Lurie Children’s Heart Center offers the Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) Program to help give teenagers and adults who were born with heart defects the best cardiac care possible. Thanks to treatment advances, most children with congenital heart disease (CHD) now survive into adulthood, yet they also require life-long cardiac monitoring for potential complications. Only about 10% of adults with CHD receive recommended care within an ACHD center, so our ACHD program staff are committed to facilitating access to care for adults with congenital heart disease.
We have a partnership with the ACHD program at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital to make the care integration process seamless. We also collaborate with the pediatric teams at Lurie Children’s Heart Center, which include our program for irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmia) — one of the nation’s foremost arrhythmia services for CHD.
Our program’s cardiologists have specific training and experience in caring for adolescents and adults with CHD and are well prepared to provide life-long follow-up care for these patients. Major goals of our program are to educate the young adult on their heart problem and to identify and treat problems early before more serious consequences develop.