Make your home page

Health Spotlight: Saving twins born with ‘Swiss cheese hearts’

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Twins Emery and Riley Grissom were both born with holes in their hearts, a birth defect known as a “Swiss cheese heart.”

Their mother, Tracey Grissom, was also born with the defect, with holes between the two lower chambers of her heart.

Tracey was able to have the holes in her heart repaired when she was eight months old. But due to her heart defect, she and her husband had their twins through a surrogate.

But while Emery and Riley’s family history put them at risk for the same defect, the twins being born through IVF increased the risk greatly.

“To find out that both your children are gonna have congenital heart defects, it was mind-blowing,” Tracey said.

While the holes in Emery’s heart are expected to close as she gets older, Riley was missing a huge chunk of the wall between the two bottom chambers of his heart.

Dr. Rajesh Shenoy at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Florida treated the twins and says Riley’s condition plummeted quickly.

“He was in overt heart failure. He was breathing at around 60 to 70 times a minute. That’s about two or three times faster than a newborn should breathe,” Shenoy said.

Doctors at the hospital performed a pulmonary artery banding. This procedure places a tie around the pulmonary artery, preventing extra blood flow from flooding Riley’s lungs. This allowed Riley to begin breathing normally.

“While in the past, he just could not gain weight because his heart and his lungs were working overtime, he’s overtaken his sister right now,” Shenoy said.

After 140 days in the hospital, Riley went home to be with his sister and his family. He’s finally gaining weight, getting stronger, and also has had open-heart surgery to completely repair the holes in his heart.

As research has recently discovered IVF increases the odds of any baby having a heart defect, doctors recommend genetic testing be done in vitro.

While Riley has already had surgery, and Emery is expected to need to have heart surgery, doctors say both children are expected to grow up and live a normal, active life.