CHOC Heart Surgery Patient Joins Security Team

As the only hospital in Orange County to perform open heart surgery on babies and children, CHOC and its Heart Institute team form special bonds with the patients entrusted to their care.

Many CHOC patients come back to visit and say thank you, some send holiday cards and share school photos so their care teams can see them grow up. A few even return to CHOC as employees, eager to be part of the organization that saved their lives.

Daniel Davis was just 13 years old when Dr. Richard Gates, surgeon-in-chief at CHOC and co-medical director of the Heart Institute, performed surgery on his heart. Eight years later Daniel returned to CHOC as a security officer, helping establish a calm and safe environment at the hospital that cared for him as a teen. He has biannual checkups with Dr. Anthony Chang, pediatric cardiologist at CHOC.

Daniel was born with a subaortic membrane, meaning that his heart had tissue growth below the aortic valve. This caused partial blood flow blockage from the left ventricle, which pumps blood to the rest of the body. This put stress on Daniel’s heart, and if left untreated, could have caused heart failure.  He had already gone through his first open- heart surgery at just three days old.

“I grew up in Orange County and wanted to return to CHOC for work because it’s so close to my heart,” he says. “Growing up I wanted to pursue a career in the military, so a security position was a first step, but now I’m pursuing my EMT certification and eventually a career in nursing.”

Daniel loves working in The Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department and observing the environment.

“I’m constantly impressed by the speed and efficiency of the emergency department staff, how they work at such a high level at such a great speed,” he says. “The emergency department is filled with the unexpected and it keeps you on your toes. Since the ED is so fast-paced, you have to be ready for anything.”

Part of Daniel’s job involves escorting patients and families on campus, as well as to and from the Orange County Ronald McDonald House. On more than one occasion, he’s been able to calm a flustered parent by sharing his story. Seeing an example of the great care CHOC provides is comforting to parents in what can be an otherwise stressful time, he has learned.

When not protecting the hallways of CHOC, he participates in Spartan races, an ultra-competitive obstacle course.

choc heart surgery
When not working at CHOC, Daniel competes in Spartan Races, an ultra-competitive obstacle course. He’s never let his heart condition or past surgeries keep him from completing his goals.

“I never used my heart condition as an excuse to get out of things like physical education class growing up,” he says. “I love being active whenever possible, and encouraging my friends and colleagues in their physical fitness goals as well.”

His commitment to fitness goals does not go unnoticed by his security teammates.

“The obstacle courses Daniel competes in require your body to be pushed to a whole new level,” says Steven Barreda, security services supervisor at CHOC. “Daniel and I work evenings, and on more than one occasion, we’ve worked overtime until 2:00 a.m. and even after a 12 -hour shift, he goes to the gym to train for his next race.”

For Daniel’s surgeons, seeing a former patient grow up to live a normal, healthy life is a joy. Being able to call him a colleague is even better.

“Daniel is fortunate to have a surgically curable condition that when treated properly and timely should allow him a completely healthy and long life, and it’s great that he leads such an athletic lifestyle,” Dr. Gates says. “We have a few patients and parents of patients who work at CHOC. It’s always great and inspiring to hear stories of how they are doing and getting along.”

Learn more about the Heart Institute at CHOC Children's

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Exercise for Healing Hearts

Parents of children with congenital or acquired heart conditions who have been cleared to exercise are often concerned about safety. And this concern is justified because strenuous physical activities, such as running and soccer, may not be the safest choices for a child with a heart condition.

However, “low-activity” physical exercis20130425_3047e may be part of the prescription, says Dr. Anthony Chang, medical director of the CHOC Children’s Heart Institute.

Exercise is a crucial component of protecting against obesity, and even children with heart conditions are not immune to this problem. Luckily, many less-strenuous activities deliver the health benefits without involving sudden increases in heart rate and blood pressure.

“Physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and many children with heart conditions may exercise safely,” Dr. Chang says. “Additionally, exercise can be an important diagnostic tool to monitor how well the child is doing. If a child cannot exercise as much or starts showing symptoms, this may indicate the heart is not doing as well.”

Additionally, these less-intense exercises include several that the entire family may enjoy doing together. Several activities are often recommended for patients who have been cleared for exercise:

• Walking

• Swimming

• Yoga

• Golf

Exercise Caution

Every child’s heart is different. Pediatric cardiologists and pediatricians use several types of tests and assessments before clearing a patient for exercise, including an electrocardiogram (EKG), echocardiogram and, in children older than age 7, exercise stress testing.

Once a child is cleared for exercise, parental or adult supervision is highly recommended. Ideally, there should be someone there who is trained to perform CPR and can operate an automated external defibrillator (AED) should the need arise.

A child should immediately stop an activity if the following symptoms occur:

• Chest pain

• Dizziness

• Unusual fatigue

“It is always a good idea to have someone there who is trained to perform CPR and use an AED,” Dr. Chang says. “That’s not just for the child with the heart condition, but for everyone. No one can predict who will experience sudden cardiac arrest.”

Learn more about CHOC Children’s Heart Institute.

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