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Meet Our Kids 2007-2009

Emory's Congenital Heart Condition


Emory Burton with his cat, Sugar.

Emory Burton, Pennsylvania

Emory was born with a heart defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot, one of the most complex congenital heart conditions known in medicine, in which the heart has four defects: a hole between the lower chambers of the heart, narrowing of the valve leading to the pulmonary arteries, enlarged right ventricle, aorta that sits atop both ventricles rather than grows just out of the left ventricle. Also as a result of the strain that these defects put on his lungs, Emory had developed enlarged pulmonary arteries that prevented the lungs from fully inflating.

Emory was diagnosed right after birth after a nurse in the delivery room of another hospital noticed his labored breathing. He was transferred to Intensive Care and Dr. Reid Thompson of the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center was called in for a consultation. Dr. Thompson made the diagnosis that evening and within 12 hours of his birth, Emory was transferred to the Hopkins Children’s.

When he was barely one month old, Emory underwent corrective open-heart surgery to repair the defects. Although his surgery was a success, Emory had to be kept relatively isolated from other people for the first two years of his life to reduce the risk of infection. Emory’s heart is stable, but he has developed asthma and sometimes his lungs are affected.

Emory’s mom, Debbie, says that although Emory is small for his age, no one would ever know he’s had heart problems. Emory doesn’t care much for sports, but he is an active child, who likes to play computer games and read. In fact, Emory is an outstanding reader in his class. Other than that, he like to goof around with friends and his little sister, Elise.

Emory comes back for yearly check-ups. In June 2007, Emory underwent a second open-heart surgery to replace a leaky pulmonary valve that was causing the heart to work extra hard and be enlarged.

Hear him talk about his time in the hospital during Radiothon in 2008.