Mighty Blog

Baby Ozzie’s wait for a heart begins after a life-saving doctor’s visit

Ozzie appeared to be healthy and happy after he was born in August 2020. It was easy to care for him as he ate and slept like a normal newborn. But something changed in late December.  Ozzie threw up after two of the morning feedings, something he had not done before. His parents decided to take him to his pediatrician.

A life-saving diagnosis

Ozzie’s parents, Jennifer and Eli, took him to see Dr. Crystal Knutson and Dr. Caitlin Pelletier at the Park Nicollet Clinic in Shakopee. Immediately, they both were concerned that Ozzie was dealing with something more severe than a stomach problem.

“When I walked in the room and I saw the way he was breathing, kind of fast, I could tell something more serious was going on,” said Dr. Crystal Knutson.

Baby Ozzie awaits a heart transplant

Ozzie’s doctors ordered tests and an X-ray which revealed Ozzie had an enlarged heart. Because of that, the family was referred to the Children’s Minnesota Cardiovascular program. Once at Children’s Minnesota, Ozzie got additional tests. The tests determined that Ozzie had Dilated Cardiomyopathy, a disease of weakened heart muscle. It affects just 1-3 in 100,000 children.

“When we learned of Ozzie’s diagnosis we were very scared. It felt like our world was spinning out of control and was on the verge of being destroyed,” said Jennifer.

Dr. Erik Edens, medical director of the Heart Failure and Heart Transplant program at Children’s Minnesota, described Ozzie’s amazing care. “It’s very critical they caught this when they did because sometimes we don’t know something is wrong until it’s too late. Ozzie’s situation was picked up because his astute pediatrician didn’t like what she was seeing.”

 ‘I thought the worst’

Ozzie was doing well when he arrived at Children’s Minnesota. But the care team was concerned he could experience a cardiac arrest so he was placed on a ventilator. His parents worried they were about to repeat their experience from two years ago when they lost their first son.

During her first pregnancy, Jennifer went into labor at just 22 weeks. Doctors were not able to stop the contractions and she gave birth to their son Logan very early. Jennifer and Eli each had a chance to hold Logan, however he died only hours later.

Waiting for a heart

The cardiovascular team at Children’s Minnesota is hopeful for Ozzie’s future. He’s on an external Berlin Heart that pumps blood for him. He’s off the ventilator now and regaining his strength. But Ozzie’s journey is not over. He’s on the transplant list for a new, infant heart.

“The wait time for a heart suitable for a baby can be very long,” said Dr. Edens. “But, we’re optimistic because his condition was diagnosed in time.”

Jennifer and Eli spend as much time with Ozzie at the hospital as possible, having frequent interactions with the care team. “Ozzie’s care team has been amazing,” said Jennifer.

Watch Ozzie’s story from KARE-11:

Children’s Minnesota Heart Failure and Heart Transplant program

The Children’s Minnesota Heart Failure and Heart Transplant (HFHT) program was launched in 2018. The addition of the HFHT services has allowed Children’s Minnesota to provide the most comprehensive pediatric cardiac care to children.

Since the inception of the program, there have been 26 patients listed for transplant, 125 heart failure consults and six heart transplants. We are continually evaluating and treating heart failure patients with the most state-of-the-art medicine and technology.

Nick Petersen