Mother-son heart bond: Woman relives congenital heart journey through newborn

More than two decades after her own complex heart surgery, a new mom asks the same surgeon who cared for her to fix her baby’s heart, too

1:43 PM

Author | Beata Mostafavi

Siani Johnson, Michigan Medicine

As Mackenzie Lampe listened to doctors explain what was wrong with her baby’s heart, memories came flooding back: the many hospital stays, medical procedures and doctor visits from her own childhood.

Lampe was all too familiar with the phrase congenital heart disease: she was also born with multiple heart conditions that required surgeries and ongoing care at University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Now, more than two decades later, the preschool teacher was trying to accept that her son, Jeremiah, was about to embark on a similar journey.           

“Our whole world was rocked,” she said of getting the diagnosis during her pregnancy ultrasound. 

“There was a lot of grieving and anger, thinking that maybe if I’d been healthy, he would have been healthy. The last thing I wanted was for someone I loved so much to go through what I went through.”

But she also knew exactly who she wanted to take care of Jeremiah: the same team who took care of her.

And it just happened that one of the surgeons who helped perform Lampe’s first heart surgery when she was just eight days old in 1998 was still at Mott. 

woman holding baby
New parents Mackenzie Lampe and Jonathan Bratton were shocked to learn that their baby, Jeremiah, had a similar congenital heart condition as Lampe. Today, they’re enjoying time at home as a family of three. Siani Johnson, Michigan Medicine

Back then, pediatric heart surgeon Richard Ohye, M.D., was a Michigan Medicine fellow. Now, he was co-director of the U-M Congenital Heart Center.

“U-M followed me my whole life and these doctors are the reason I’m here. I knew this was the best team we could have for our son and I had a personal connection and trust with Dr. Ohye,” Lampe said. 

“He was there for me and my family through so much of my own journey. Who could I trust more?”

Ohye received a message from the U-M Health Cardio-Obstetrics team, who was caring for Lampe during her pregnancy, with her request that he personally take her baby’s case.

Even so many years later, he remembered her well. Lampe had been among the first group of infants at Mott to undergo the Ross procedure. 

The aortic valve repair involves replacing a patient’s nonfunctioning aortic valve with their pulmonary valve, which is anatomically similar. The relocated pulmonary valve is then replaced with a donor heart valve.

The surgery was led by his mentor and former Mott pediatric heart surgeon Edward Bove, M.D., and Ohye later included Lampe’s case in a research paper.

“Her surgery was a big one so it stood out. Many centers weren’t doing that procedure at the time and it was still rare,” Ohye said. 

“Hearing from her again was definitely a full circle moment. Here’s a mom I had the privilege of taking care of more than 25 years ago asking me to now take care of her son. I was honored to do so. It felt like it was meant to be.” 

“I knew Jeremiah was in the best hands”

Lampe had multiple, serious congenital heart defects, including a non-working aortic valve, aortic stenosis – or narrowing of the aortic valve that prevents healthy blood flow – and a hole between her two heart chambers.

Jeremiah also had a narrow aorta known as coarctation of the aorta but his condition wasn’t as complex as his mother’s.

Lampe and her partner, Jonathan Bratton, did genetic testing but there’s no way to know if mom and son’s conditions are in any way related. 

Bratton was also stunned by the diagnosis.

“We were shocked but knowing about Kenzie’s experience at Michigan gave me a lot more reassurance and comfort. She’s living proof of what they can do here,” Bratton said.

“As soon as I met Dr. Ohye, I was put at ease and felt 1,000 times better. I knew Jeremiah was in the best hands.”

Because of her own heart condition, Lampe was seeing U-M Health maternal fetal medicine physician Caitlin Clifford, M.D. before labor and delivery, as well as receiving increased monitoring by her U-M Health adult congenital cardiologist Mark Norris, M.D. 

Here’s a mom I had the privilege of taking care of more than 25 years ago asking me to now take care of her son. I was honored to do so.” 

- Richard Ohye, M.D.

Toward the end of her pregnancy, she began experiencing episodes of ventricular tachycardia, an abnormal heart rhythm likely associated with her own heart disease and that can increase risk of maternal heart complications. But doctors discovered it early and she was put on medication that kept it at bay. 

In the summer of 2023, Lampe delivered Jeremiah at U-M Health Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital. Because he was small at birth, weighing just a little over five pounds, Jeremiah first underwent a cardiac catheterization hybrid procedure, a minimally invasive method to improve his blood flow until he was stronger and bigger.

Then, at about four months old, he was ready for the full open-heart surgery led by Ohye who repaired his heart by removing the narrowed segment of the aorta and patching the underdeveloped aortic arch.

After hours in the operating room, Ohye met with Lampe and Bratton to tell them it was a success.

“That was the biggest relief of my life,” Bratton said.

For Lampe, watching Jeremiah go through surgery and recovery has been full of emotional highs and lows. 

“It’s been a little traumatic but also rewarding reliving everything through him,” she said. 

“There was one day when I realized someone in the next room was a caregiver who had taken care of me when I was a kid. We reunited and she held Jeremiah. There were so many moments like that where it felt like we were back with family. Just seeing the care from when I was there and now for our baby, I can tell you it’s still the same extraordinary place.” 

New firsts, including Mother’s Day 

Now nearly 10 months old, Jeremiah is crawling, babbling and giggling and his parents describe him as “bubbly, smiley and always on the go.”

“We basically lived in the hospital for the first six months of his life and it’s been nice to slow down and have some calm,” Lampe said.

girl in hospital bed on left and baby on right smiling sitting up
One day Lampe says she and her son will talk about their heart journeys together. Courtesy of Mackenzie Lampe

“We’re enjoying all the big and little moments, seeing him stand on his own, say ‘dadda’ and finding his voice, playing with Linkimals and his baby ball pit. Moments we didn’t get to have in the hospital. It’s so rewarding getting him to watch him hit these milestones at home as a family.”

And at a recent appointment, the new parents got big news: Jeremiah doesn’t need another heart visit for a year. Ohye says his growth and development is on track and he doesn’t expect him to have any restrictions as he gets older in sports or any other activities.

“He got a clean bill of health and now we’re finding our new normal,” Bratton said. 

“It’s been awesome to see him find his voice and develop a personality. He’s super active and energetic and always seems to want to tell you something. I’m excited to see him bloom, develop his own interests and be there to support him every step of the way.”

Lampe is also looking forward to all of their new firsts as a family, including her first Mother’s Day. 

The couple is planning a celebration in Holland that coincides with the holiday and their anniversary, enjoying their first getaway as a family of three. 

“For so long there was so much unknown and not knowing what’s next,” she said. “Getting this chance to be his mom and see him grow is a big deal and I’m grateful we’re at this point. One day, when he’s older, we will talk about his journey and my journey together.”

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More Articles About: C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital Children's Health Congenital Heart Disease Pediatric Health Conditions Heart Conditions Counseling Cardiovascular: Diagnostics & Procedures Cardiovascular: Treatment & Surgery Pregnancy High-Risk Pregnancy Women's Health childbirth Heart disease Arrhythmia or Abnormal Heart Rhythms
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