Baby Seth's Surgery Went "Beautifully," Docs Say

Doctors replace boy's heart shunt in advance of "experimental" procedure

By Anthony Ponce and BJ Lutz
|  Thursday, Jan 6, 2011  |  Updated 6:31 PM CDT
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Jan. 6, 2011: Baby Seth's doctor and parents talk about the miraculous progress in the struggle to save his life.

Jan. 6, 2011: Baby Seth's doctor and parents talk about the miraculous progress in the struggle to save his life.

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Doctors on Thursday said the procedure to replace the heart shunt of a 5-month-old Indiana boy went "beautifully."

The surgery was the among the several aimed at saving the life of Seth Petreikis, who was diagnosed with Complete DiGeorge Syndrome shortly after his birth. 

"Flawlessly, there were no concerns whatsoever," said Dr. Andrew Van Bergen, a cardiac intensivist at Hope Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn.  

DiGeorge Syndrome is a rare and fatal condition which inhibits the body's immune system.  In order to survive, Petreikis needs a thymus transplant, and doctors wanted to get the shunt-replacement operation out of the way in advance of that procedure.

The immediate priority now is protecting the boy from infection because he has no immune system.

"We are going to do everything to protect him from that. He'll be in isolation. When I go in the room, I'm wearing a gown, I'm wearing a mask, I'm wearing gloves," said Van Bergen.

He said the boy's parents, Tim and Becky Petreikis, have shown "incredible resolve" throughout this process.

"A great sense of relief," Becky Petreikis said after the surgery. "I've seen him. He looks very, very good."

Barring complications, the boy will stay in the hospital's pediatric intensive-care unit for two to three days and then go home.

"I'm just relieved that it went so well and it looks like he's going to have a quick recovery," said Tim Petreikis.

Young Seth will be re-evaluated in a week and a half to make sure his heart is functioning properly, his incisions are healing properly, and hopefully get clearance to go down to North Carolina for his thymus tissue transplant. 

A doctor at Duke University Medical Center is the only physician in the nation who performs the thymus transplant procedure.  The expensive surgeries were initially denied by the family's insurance company, which deemed them "experimental."  But after days of media coverage, a not-for-profit organization agreed to pay for his care.

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