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Atrial septal defect
Henry Phillips

Beth Phillips will never forget that day at Children’s of Alabama in November of 2012. She and her husband, Jonathan, were in shock as cardiologist Yung Lau, MD, confirmed their greatest fear for their firstborn son, Henry.

“I remember him telling us ‘I know now that I have told you your son has a heart defect you won’t hear anything else I have to say because you are trying to process. You can call me at any time and I will answer any questions you may have.’

“We were amazed that the director of the Division of Pediatric Cardiology told us that we could call him whenever we needed to,” says Beth.

Henry had never shown any signs of illness or symptoms of a heart defect until his 9- month well baby checkup when pediatrician Bill Whitaker, MD, detected a murmur. Henry was referred to the cardiology team at Children’s, where it was determined he had been born with a hole in his heart—specifically, an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD).

“As he grew, the hole grew larger—pumping oxygenated blood back into his lungs and putting pressure and strain on his heart, lungs and other major organs,” Beth explains. “In most ASD cases, the hole closes on its own or can be closed in a heart catheterization lab. But the hole in Henry’s heart was one of the largest Dr. Lau and cardiothoracic surgeon Robert Dabal, MD, had seen.”

Because of the love and support they already had experienced at Children’s, Beth and Jonathan never considered getting a second opinion—and Dr. Dabal performed open heart surgery to correct the defect when Henry was 13 months old.

“Our ‘Henry bug’ is so brave and so determined,” Beth says. “I have a video of him walking the halls of the CCU two days post-op. He never slowed down!”

Today, Henry has completely recovered from his surgery and visits his cardiologist for checkups only every two years. Occasionally, Beth reads him a book her parents bought Henry while he was hospitalized entitled I Couldn’t Love You More.

“This story is about the love for a child and God’s unconditional love,” Beth says. “We had each person who cared for Henry at Children’s sign this book—and we will cherish the messages they wrote Henry forever.

“Now as I watch him run and play, I think about how great our Heavenly Father is to have placed such gifted and compassionate people in our lives to help heal his heart,” she adds. “There is no question God has big plans for our Henry and I know that he will achieve anything his heart desires.”
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