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Whole-Hearted Care

The Ward Family Heart Center at Children’s Mercy Hospital

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Article by Lisa Moyer

Photography by Paul Versluis

Originally published in Johnson County Lifestyle

It can be overwhelming to learn your child or unborn child has a heart condition. That’s why Kansas City’s own Children’s Mercy has developed a full-service cardiology and cardiac surgery program to help families throughout their journey.

“We consider it a privilege to provide care for children and families during some of their most difficult and stressful times,” says Alison Bender, administrative director of the Ward Family Heart Center at Children’s Mercy. “We are ready to provide top-ranked, comprehensive care for children with any type of heart condition.”

At the Ward Family Heart Center, families can expect extensive experience from knowledgeable and personal care providers. That knowledge along with a commitment to ongoing innovative research translates into some of the best care in the nation with outstanding survival rates.

In the most recent U.S. News and World Report Best Children’s Hospitals list, the Cardiology and Heart Surgery program at Children’s Mercy was ranked in the nation’s top 15 percent of nearly 200 children’s hospitals surveyed.

“Our team of 35 pediatric cardiologists and heart surgeons, together with specially trained nurses and staff members, work tirelessly to give children the best possible care and outcomes,” Bender says. “The size and scope of our program means we’re always ready to care for children, no matter how rare or complex their need.”

Because children with heart problems often have other health conditions, the heart center team works closely with the hundreds of pediatric subspecialists available at Children’s Mercy. Having specialists work closely together helps ensure a comprehensive care plan throughout each patient’s journey.

The multidisciplinary heart center team offers many super subspecialty clinics like electrophysiology, heart failure and transplant, preventive cardiology and many more. These subspecialty clinics continue to grow. In less than four years, the area’s only pediatric heart transplant program has performed 18 heart transplants.

“We were very proud to be able to bring pediatric heart transplant to the region. The Heart Transplant Program provides care for children who have no other medical or surgical options to fix a failing heart without serious risk,” Bender says.

In addition to the Heart Transplant program, Bender highlights the following accomplishments over the past decade:

  • The Outreach Program helps ease the burden of frequent travel for families who live outside Kansas City by providing high-quality outpatient care at numerous cities for patients throughout Kansas and western/southern Missouri.

  • CHAMP has made it possible for more children with single-ventricle heart disease to safely live at home between surgeries. Children with heart conditions often need complex care and close monitoring, which used to mean a long hospital stay was inevitable. By developing the Cardiac High Acuity Monitoring Program (CHAMP) app, Children’s Mercy is leading the industry in groundbreaking technology to allow real-time home monitoring. Because of the success of CHAMP, Children’s Mercy is now sharing this technology with other pediatric cardiology programs across the nation.

  • The Thrive Program was launched in 2016 to provide comprehensive support for patients and families navigating the overwhelming emotions and complexities of coping with a heart condition. The Thrive team includes specialists from social work, psychology, child life, music therapy, financial counseling, chaplaincy and palliative care.

  • The Fetal Cardiac Clinic helps families during pregnancy care for the development of unborn babies with complex heart issues. The fetal cardiologists, nurses and nurse practitioners help these families through accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plans both before delivery and after.

  • Continual research conducted at the Ward Family Heart Center spans the entire spectrum of medical research from bench to bedside. Multiple disciplines contribute to translational research in pharmacogenomics, imaging tissue engineering and outcomes research. The team is also collaborating with the Genomic Medicine Center at Children’s Mercy to investigate genetic causes of congenital heart disease.

“Our team is committed to providing patients the best medical care possible and will continue to grow to respond to the needs of our community and region,” Bender says. “This commitment goes hand-in-hand with our dedication to discovering and pioneering the latest treatment methods through innovative clinical research.”

Bender adds the rewards of her role come from seeing the thank-you cards and pictures from patients that are proudly displayed by staff.

“Recently a mom sent us a photo of her infant daughter wearing a onesie that said, ‘My cardiologist is better than yours.’ This is truly how we want all of our patients to feel about the care they receive from our team -- that we changed their children’s lives.”

For more information and a complete listing of clinical services provided, contact:

Alison Bender, MHSA, Administrative Director of the Ward Family Heart Center
Children’s Mercy Kansas City
2401 Gillham Road
Kansas City, MO  64108
ChildrensMercy.org

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