Carolinas HealthCare System

Megan Sides was 26 weeks into her pregnancy, excited to learn the gender of her baby, when her doctor instead told her something was wrong. Weeks of tests later, Megan was told her baby had hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a rare congenital heart defect where the left side of the heart is critically underdeveloped. Watch Annabelle's Story.

"We were told about Dr. Peeler by a cardiologist close to home and immediately scheduled an appointment to meet him," Megan says. "I knew right away after hearing his success rate that he was my guy!"

At the Congenital Heart Center at Levine Children's Hospital, the treatment for HLHS involves three separate surgical procedures: the Norwood, Glenn and Fontan, all before the patient is three years old. Megan’s daughter Annabelle had her first surgery at seven days old and her second at six months.

"Spending so much time in the hospital with a new baby was difficult because, like other parents, I just wanted to take my baby home when she was born," Megan says. "I can remember waiting in front of the hospital in my wheel chair after being discharged from giving birth with a cart full of flowers and balloons saying it was a girl, but no baby in my arms."

Annabelle has a team of doctors at Levine Children’s Hospital, including Amanda Cook, MD, her primary pediatric cardiologist; Benjamin Peeler, MD, her pediatric cardiac surgeon; and Joseph Paolillo, MD, who does her heart catheterizations.

"My experience at Levine Children’s Hospital has been an amazing one," Megan says. "The staff has been amazing, not only to my child but my whole family."

Megan says even when Annabelle is not in the hospital, they make regular trips to see their "family of nurses and doctors."

"To us, they are the most important people in our lives," she says. "They have been our rock when we were ready to give up, they have fought for hours, days, weeks so that my child would survive and wouldn’t give up this fight. I can’t even put into words what they mean to me!"

Today, Annabelle is just like every other two and a half year old. She still has one more surgery to get through, but, in the meantime, she’s walking, running, playing and eating constantly, according to mom.

"She is a little delayed, but she has gotten everything we have wanted her to do on her own time," Megan says. "She loves to play with her pawpaw, swim, ride in her cozy coupe, and enjoys doing art."