Heart patients graduate from special PCH program - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Heart patients graduate from special PCH program

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A group of heart patients recently "graduated" from a special program at Phoenix Children's Hospital.

The graduates at the ceremony are small, but their accomplishment is anything but insignificant.      

These toddlers have successfully completed the CHIEF program, which stands for Complex Congenital Heart Infant Evaluation and Follow up.

All were born with congenital heart defects and have survived multiple heart surgeries.

"The initial two are usually done within the first year and between those two surgeries their rate of mortality is pretty high," said Shelley Akey, a neonatal nurse practitioner.

Thanks to the CHIEF program, that mortality rate drops significantly.

CHIEF teaches parents how to monitor their infant's health at home, and gives families direct, easy phone access to expert doctors and nurse practitioners.

"So they're not always having to run to the emergency department if they're not sure how their child is doing, give them certain parameters on things to look for at home," said Akey.

Parents Bryan and Michelle Prater are overjoyed that 15-month-old Serenity has made it through the program.

Born two months early and without a pulmonary artery, serenity has already undergone two heart surgeries.

The Prater's can't speak highly enough of the support they've received from CHIEF.

"Tremendous everywhere, counselors everywhere, social workers, everybody; our nurse practitioner, she was the best," said Bryan and Michelle Prater.

95 children have already received these diplomas from the chief program and another 13 kids will graduated recently. Even after they leave the hospital, they'll still continue to receive medical support from the PCH team.

As parents walked their little ones to the stage, their faces were filled with joy and also with relief.

While the kids are the ones receiving diplomas, it's the parents who appreciate what a gift it is to have a healthy child.

"This hospital works miracles. This day means a lot, I'm so excited to even be here," said Bryan and Michelle Prater.

Many other children are still progressing through the CHIEF program and several will graduate in fall of 2013.

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