Physician, NFL Athlete and Carolinas HealthCare System Nurse Come Together for Congenital Heart Awareness

Benjamin Peeler, MD, FACS

Benjamin Peeler, MD, FACS
Chief of Pediatric and Adult Congenital Cardiac Surgery

The Congenital Heart Center at Carolinas HealthCare System’s Levine Children’s Hospital has set the bar for quality in the southeastern United States and across the country. In a short time, the hospital’s survival rates have earned recognition by the Society of Thoracic Surgery (STS) and U.S. News & World Report.

But behind the numbers are the families who are grateful to see their little ones receive excellent care, and their gratefulness has extended beyond Levine Children’s Hospital. One such family is Greg Olsen, tight end for the Carolina Panthers, and his wife Kara. Their son T.J. was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome before he was born.

T.J. underwent the first of his three surgeries at Levine Children’s Hospital days after his birth in October 2012. Weeks later, when it was time for T.J. to go home, the Olsen family discovered the need, as well as the benefit, of having in-home nursing care for their fragile son. In order to help other families facing the same need, the Olsens established The HEARTest Yard Fund, making the transition from the hospital to home much easier financially for families.

Benjamin Peeler, MD, FACS, chief of the pediatric and adult congenital cardiac surgery department at Carolinas HealthCare System, operated on T.J. Olsen and on countless others with congenital heart disease. “Those first months after the first surgery are certainly challenging for families,” Dr. Peeler said. “Having an extra set of hands and eyes to help with caring for the child as well as freeing up mom to do her other day-to-day duties can be the best thing for both the baby and the family.”

David and Frances Liberto are the first to take advantage of The HEARTest Yard funds after their son Martin came home after heart surgery. Frances said it was a blessing to have nurses come to their home four days a week, eight hours a day, to care for Martin while David was at work and at school.

“This great gift from The HEARTest Yard Fund enabled me to maintain some semblance of order in my house and to meet the needs of our two older kids,” she said. “In the end, I feel that the nurses weren't here just to benefit Martin. Their caring for him helped us keep our whole family together.”

David, a nurse with Carolinas HealthCare System, and his wife, extensively researched where their son should go for care.

“We just wanted to find the best medical team for Martin and were willing to go anywhere in the country,” David said. “However, we did our investigation and talked with cardiovascular surgeons in the System and we came to the conclusion that for what our family needed, Levine Children’s Hospital was the best option.”

View the data related to Congenital Heart Center volume, procedure mortality rates and infection rates. (PDF)

Learn more about The HEARTest Yard Fund.

The Liberto family with Dr. Peeler and Martha Whitecotton, MSN, FACHE, senior vice president of behavioral health at a The HEARTest Yard Fund event.
The Olsen family with Dr. Peeler and Martha Whitecotton, MSN, FACHE, senior vice president of behavioral health, at a The HEARTest Yard Fund event.
Picture of baby Martin Liberto
Picture of baby Martin Liberto