AUSTIN (KXAN) — When Jaime Moreno found out she was pregnant with her second child, she and her husband Steve were ecstatic. Both of her children had been conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF), and she was grateful for the ability to expand her family.

While in for an 18-week scan, her doctors noticed something unusual with her unborn son’s anatomy scan. Two weeks and an additional scan later, doctors confirmed to Jaime her son had hypoplastic left heart syndrome, or the underdevelopment of the left side of the heart.

“We [were] immediately thrown — we just did not know what to think about, what that meant for us and our family and our child,” she said. “All the worries you can imagine started popping into our brains about this life that we were now being thrust into, completely different from what we had anticipated it might be.”

The Morenos connected with Dr. Eileen Stewart, a pediatric cardiologist at Pediatrix Pediatric, Congenital Cardiology Associates of Texas and Dell Children’s Medical Center. Stewart oversees Dell Children’s IMPACT program, a pre-and post-natal cardiac care resource for families with children diagnosed with heart conditions.

The program follows families throughout their pregnancies and then arranges cardiac assessments as well as physical and speech therapy visits to monitor the child’s development. IMPACT also connects families to social workers who can help them navigate the emotional and financial components of care.

Stewart stressed the importance of pre-natal diagnoses with helping families prepare a comprehensive birth plan for their child as well as to anticipate any surgeries, post-birth care and financial obligations they will require.

“It’s very difficult to kind of understand and take in a new diagnosis of congenital heart disease for your child that you thought was healthy,” she said. “And so a lot of our time is spent preparing the family for what to expect.”

In October 2021, Jaime gave birth to her son, Chase. More than a year later, he’s undergone two of three open-heart surgeries required for his condition and is showing substantial progress, Jaime said.

“There’s just a plethora of resources available [through the IMPACT program] to you as a heart parent as you enter this first stage of the journey,” Jaime said. “As we surpassed surgery one and we were impatient and preparing to then get discharged, to take him home, that’s what the real power of the IMPACT program kicks in. You are forced to sort of deal with this new life — it’s one thing to talk about it and prepare for it, but it’s another to be living it once they are delivered and out in the world.”

For Stewart, she said it was integral for the IMPACT program to take on its multi-disciplinary approach and not only focus on the physical health of the child, but the financial and emotional tolls it can take on families.

“I am pretty passionate about the kind of multi-disciplinary, well-rounded holistic care for kids who have congenital heart disease. And I think that’s true of the whole team at Dell Children’s,” Stewart said. “There’s a big focus throughout the heart center program on value and family-based care, and so we really tried to bring that sort of ethos to all of the ways we do our program.”

This past fall, the IMPACT program hosted a family reunion for families and graduates from the program. Around that same time, the IMPACT program had graduated its 50th patient.

The IMPACT program also collaborates with Dell Children’s Comprehensive Care Clinic, which features general pediatrics and medical care for children with “complex medical needs,” Stewart said. She said collaboration has been integral in getting families the treatment their children need.

“I think that has made our care of our patients in the IMPACT program just so much better, because all the [general pediatric] stuff that we’re not experts in, they are experts in and they have layers of support,” Stewart said. “I wish every community had that, and they’re just really unique here in Austin.”

More information about the IMPACT program is available online.