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Complete Care for a Tiny Heart

When you meet Joel Earp, it’s hard to believe he had a heart condition that required specialized care from Harbin Clinic’s Pediatric Cardiology team. A flash on his bicycle and a master of tag, four-year-old Joel was born with a small hole in his heart. Only a few hours after birth, an echocardiogram was ordered to get a good read on what was happening with Joel’s heart. It was discovered that he had a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD), which allowed oxygen-rich blood to flow from the left ventricle into the right ventricle, instead of flowing into the aorta and out to the body.

With what felt like mounting, medical concerns weighing on Joel’s parents, Thelma and Harrison Earp were comforted by the arrival of pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Joshua Donner. In an interview about her experience, Thelma Earp described the way Dr. Donner’s hospital visit put them at ease. When he arrived, he grabbed a piece of paper and started drawing an anatomical heart for them.

“This is where the hole is in Joel’s heart,” he said, “And it should close up within a year. We’ll continue to monitor him, and we are right here in Rome. We’ll walk through this together.”

“And he was right,” Thelma commented, “The first year of a baby’s life is full of doctors appointments already. While I was trying to handle multiple children and multiple doctors appointments, it was incredibly helpful that the Harbin Clinic Pediatric Cardiology office was so convenient and such a warm environment to visit.”

Illustrating this point, Thelma went on to describe the way both Dr. Donner and Dr. Henaro Sabino, Harbin Clinic pediatrician and pediatric cardiologist, went out of their way to also comfort Joel’s older sister during her brother’s doctor visits.

“They spoke on her level and made her feel like she was a part of the team,” explained Thelma.

Thelma also talked about the ease with which her children’s pediatrician, Dr. Robersteen Howard of Harbin Clinic Pediatrics Rome and the cardiologist team could communicate,

“There was excellent reporting between the two Harbin Clinic departments. I wasn’t trying to remember everything and relay medical information. I felt like Joel was known across the system, and with so much on my mind, this was a comfort in itself. When Harbin Clinic reached out to me about National Heart Health Month, I jumped at the chance to tell this story. The pediatric cardiology team in Rome cares for more than the heart of your child, they care for the whole person and frankly, the whole family.”

The CDC estimates that approximately 1 in every 100 babies in the US is born with a heart defect like Joel’s condition. What a privilege it is to have pediatric cardiologists in Northwest Georgia who know how to handle even a somewhat rare diagnosis like this one. Get to know Dr. Joshua Donner and Dr. Henaro Sabino and the types of compassionate care they give to children (birth to age 21) who have disorders of the heart, arteries, veins and lymphatic vessels (vascular diseases). Let’s join the Earps and the Harbin family in saying thank you to the doctors who care for the youngest hearts in Northwest Georgia.

Published February 24, 2021