Carolinas HealthCare System

Murphy Clark“Pink or blue?” That was the only question on their minds when Casey and Charles Clark visited her OB/GYN office for a routine ultrasound. They were thrilled to learn they were having a boy who would be named Murphy—but weren’t ready for the life-changing results that followed.

The technician couldn’t see all four chambers of their baby’s heart. A fetal echocardiogram at Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute helped confirm that Murphy had hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a rare congenital heart defect that is fatal without treatment. The Clarks then met with Drs. James René Herlong and Benjamin Peeler. The Clarks were overwhelmed and scared, but the team at The Congenital Heart Center at Levine Children’s Hospital gave them the confidence to continue with Murphy’s treatment.

Dr. Peeler explained that the path to correcting Murphy’s heart defect would be a planned three-part reconstruction. The first surgery, the Norwood procedure, is typically performed within the first few days after birth. A complex operation, it carries the highest risk of all three surgeries. “It’s a challenging procedure, in which the aorta is enlarged and a small tube is placed from the right ventricle to the lung’s blood vessels,” Dr. Peeler said.

The second surgery, the Glenn procedure, is typically performed when a child is about 4 months old. “We have to ensure the heart is strong enough and the pulmonary arteries have grown enough,” Dr. Peeler said. The third surgery, the Fontan operation, is usually performed when a child is about 3 years old. The Glenn and Fontan surgeries move blood from the heart directly to the lungs.

"We can't thank Dr. Peeler and the Congenital Center staff enough."

-Charles Clark, Murphy's dad

Dr. Peeler’s Norwood survival rate is 100 percent for the 17 surgeries performed since he’s been treating HLHS patients at Levine Children’s Hospital. Murphy’s first surgery took place only six days after birth, and immediately he showed amazing progress. A few months later, Murphy returned for his second procedure. His echocardiogram in October 2011 looked good.

“We’re so thankful for how well he has done so far,” Casey said. “We can’t thank Dr. Peeler and the congenital center staff enough,” Charles said.