LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – For a father, discovering that his 16-month-old son shared the same serious heart disorder he’d been diagnosed with at the age of 13 filled him with guilt.
Jeff Crooyman and his son, Bryce, both have supravalvular aortic stenosis, which can be incredibly serious if not treated. Young Bryce was diagnosed with the disorder at 5-months-old during a routine doctor’s visit.
“It was really hard for me, honestly. I took a lot of self-guilt with it, like, I created this. Nobody else in my family has this condition,” Crooyman said.
Some 18 years after Crooyman underwent surgery for the disorder, his son Bryce would have to undergo the same. He said he was terrified about the prospect until he learned the same surgeon that had operated him as a teenager would be taking care of little Bryce.
“When his pediatric cardiologist said, ‘Hey, you know, we’re going to get Dr. Starnes,’ I was beyond excited. It was this huge sense of relief, as in I no longer had to worry anymore.”
Dr. Vaughn Starnes is the chief cardiac surgeon at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
“Both Jeff and his son, Bryce, have the similar condition where the aorta and the pulmonary artery are involved with narrowing. We had to go in and enlarge those areas with placement of patch material,” Dr. Vaughn said.
Bryce’s surgery was now nearly a year ago.
“Well, I think Jeff, as you’ll see later, is leading a very normal life. He has no limitations from his heart. I would say he does not have heart disease at this point in time,” Dr. Starnes said. “Bryce, I think, is almost a year out now from surgery. He is showing no ill effects of having undergone open heart surgery for both his aorta and his pulmonary artery and I don’t anticipate having to re-operate on him either.”
Crooyman said Bryce is fantastic and that if people met him on the street, they’d never know his son had undergone open heart surgery.
“Even if he takes his shirt off, the scaring is, like, almost nonexistent. There’s only minor places where you can even see it, but you really do have to kind of look at it,” Crooyman said.
He also added how thankful he is for Dr. Starnes and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles because he’s able to lead a wonderful life with his family of four.
“It really hurt me, but you know, looking back on it now, it’s just another thing that he has to live with and it’s a bond that we’ll share, like, you know, no other father and son could share this type of bond. So, I think that every father’s day that I get to spend with him is special, let alone every day,” Crooyman said.